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Arthur Sadoun: "These four words, 'you have cancer', first create fear for his life, and immediately afterwards, fear for his job"


Being able to talk about your cancer in the workplace, feeling supported. This is the objective of the global campaign launched by Arthur Sadoun, the boss of Publicis, himself concerned.

Saturday February 4, World Cancer Day 2023 edition will sound an unprecedented call.


wake-up call

which is nothing more than an invitation to mobilize for a common goal: to break the taboo of cancer at work and put an end to the professional insecurity it creates when it strikes.

When one out of two people will face a diagnosis of cancer in their lifetime, half of the individuals affected say they are afraid to talk about it at work (1).

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Because he went through the ordeal in the spring of 2022, discovering, in a violent and unexpected way, a tumor linked to the human papillomavirus HPV, the chairman of the management board of Publicis Groupe entered this reality.

And, very quickly, Arthur Sadoun decided to involve, under the aegis of the Publicis Foundation, several tens of large groups and international companies in the Working With Cancer platform.

It is she who brings together and makes visible their concrete proposals.

In this battle against the stigmatization of cancer in the workplace, the general public will also have to take its place and give a voice.

A communication campaign (2) starts on Saturday via posters in the streets, pages in the French and foreign media, a committed spot on television and in cinemas,

and will roll out to the US Super Bowl arena in Glendale, Arizona on February 12.

It must not fail to (wake) us up.

Poster of the Working With Cancer campaign, aiming to eliminate cancer stigma in the workplace.


Madame Figaro


– How did you decide to make a personal health test a collective commitment?

Why did you switch from I to We?

Arthur Sadoun.

In March 2022, I am in the United States sitting in a lunch where I am a little bored, I touch my jaw, and I discover a ball.

Friends tell me: “Show it to a doctor!”

I don't know if without them I would have done it.

Within a week, I went from a small lymph node to cancer.

Some lengthy examinations followed, an operation which confirmed that it was a tumor linked to HPV or human papillomavirus (

it is an ordinary virus, multiple, resistant, which is divided into two groups, the harmless papillomaviruses – eliminated in 80% of cases – and those which develop and can cause cancerous lesions in women and men.

There is a vaccine, still insufficiently known, Editor's note


The good news was that it was a cancer with a favorable prognosis, the less good that it was necessary to go through a heavy preventive treatment of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

So, I said to myself: I will make the news public.

I can't recommend transparency to my clients for them or their business, and not apply it to me.

I can't lie to avoid traveling professionally, missing meetings without explanation, hiding from shareholders.

The decision was difficult.

Because speaking like this exposes those you love.

And professionally, you then highlight your vulnerability.

It's not easy.

50% of people affected in France hide it from their employer

Arthur Sadoun

For you specifically, why?

To receive the diagnosis of cancer is to have the feeling of passing on the side of the weak.

Whether you like it or not, it is a reality that makes you lose confidence in yourself.

To express it when you are a boss of the CAC 40, three months before the renewal of your mandate, is a difficult decision.

The choice of my wife (

the journalist

Anne-Sophie Lapix

, editor's note

), that of the chairman of the board of Publicis, Maurice Lévy, and two close friends was important to me.

So I decided to express myself in a short film aimed at our 96,000 employees, which went viral.

And the reactions are piling up at an astronomical rate.

What do these testimonials say?

All the same thing: thank you for your transparency, and we too have been there.

But those four hard-to-hear words – you have cancer – create fear first for his life, and then fear for his job.

For some, it is the fear of no longer being able to progress in their career.

To be stigmatized.

I did not imagine the extent of the phenomenon, the distress of these testimonies which confide to hide the reality of their cancer at work, that of the one they love, that of their children.

50% of people affected in France hide it from their employer, it is much more in the United States where, overnight, you can find yourself sick, unemployed and without insurance.

We have more than 40,000 employees.

I no longer thought about my own weakness at all.

We have to solve a problem of perception.

The mission is collective, it is with a coalition that we will get there.

Man of communication, you share the creation of the Working With Cancer platform at the Davos economic forum, in January in front of 200 bosses.

What does the appeal of February 4 represent?

A simple and concrete answer to move forward.

Change the perception we may have of the people affected.

Accompany them, surround them, them and their carers.

We already have a lot of big bosses with us, Walmart, L'Oréal, Carrefour, BNP, the biggest influential associations in the fight against disease... Publicis Groupe is committed to guaranteeing the employment and basic salary of its employees achieved, anywhere in the world, for at least one year;

to support them professionally and psychologically, they and the caring employees whose close relative, spouse or child falls ill, so that they can adjust their professional life accordingly.

Psychologically, continuing to work allows you to think about other things, it brought me an adrenaline that makes you climb mountains

Arthur Sadoun

Working helps the majority of sufferers.

Was this your case?

Yes of course !

Be careful, you have to think about your health first, and if it requires you to stop, do it.

But psychologically, continuing to work allows me to think about other things, it brought me an adrenaline that makes you climb mountains, including when, in the middle of treatment, I went up to speak on a stage in front of four hundred shareholders and a few thousand more on the internet.

These are moments, in the very violent marathon of treatments, which pose important positive markers.

I do not encourage working.

I say it can help a lot of people during treatment.

And that the return to work must be accompanied by unfailing support.

Read alsoÉmilie Daudin, alias @emiliebrunette: "My work helped me not to sink in the face of my cancer"

Shouldn't we make a revolution within the HR departments for this to change?

That's why we go over the top.

If the biggest bosses in France as in the United States and in the world decide to break the taboo of cancer and reduce the feeling of insecurity at work, it is then supposed to go down very quickly within organizations.

Those who signed the charter in a few days are committed, and moreover their organizations are already ready.

There are certainly people, including bosses, who still think that getting sick is the opposite of the criteria for success.

It's unbearable, we have to fight against it.

When you have gone through such an ordeal, you develop, whoever you are, a distance and a maturity about things.

More and more people will be confronted with this disease and will have decades to live after,

as treatment progresses.

It is also necessary that public opinion appropriates the subject, contributes to creating a feeling of security in the workplace.

Finally, I come back to your initial question of the transition from I to we.

My experience helped me to understand what causes the announcement of cancer and its treatment – ​​you can't do it when you haven't been there, it's impossible.

And to initiate an unprecedented dynamic that I hope will be irreversible: breaking the taboo of cancer at work.

announcement of cancer and its treatment – ​​you can't when you haven't been there, it's impossible.

And to initiate an unprecedented dynamic that I hope will be irreversible: breaking the taboo of cancer at work.

announcement of cancer and its treatment – ​​you can't when you haven't been there, it's impossible.

And to initiate an unprecedented dynamic that I hope will be irreversible: breaking the taboo of cancer at work.

(1) OpinionWay study for Cancer@Work, September 2019.

(2) With the support of the Gustave Roussy Institute and the cancer@work association in France;

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, USA;

Macmillan Cancer Support, UK.

Source: lefigaro

All life articles on 2023-02-03

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