Advances in medicine have increased people's survivorship from cancer and their ability to work both during and after treatment. However, the impact that diagnosis and treatment has on psychosocial factors that may impact an individual's ability to work is not fully understood.
This purpose of this study was to explore the impact of symptoms, work adjustments, and disclosure of one's disability to supervisors and co-workers on employment both during and after treatment.
The study was conducted in the United Kingdom via mailed questionnaire.
The participants were 328 cancer survivors. Forty five types of cancer were represented and categorized into the eight areas representing the cancers' site. This included: breast, colorectal, genital, head and neck, lymph, prostate, melanoma and other. Treatments included: oral medication, surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The majority of the participants were female (77%). The age range was between 18 to 68 years. Participants worked in a range of occupations with the majority or 54% working in skilled/operational-non manual.
A 33 item questionnaire was used to gather information about demographics, information about cancer, symptoms associated with cancer and its treatment, disclosure of cancer at work, and work supports. Multivariate logistic regressions were run to determine the association of symptoms, disclosure and work adjustments and working during treatment and returning to work following treatment
Interventions included disclosure of disability and various types of work accommodations, particularly flexible scheduling and paid leave for all medical appointments.
There was no control or comparison condition.
Thirty percent of the sample continued to work during treatment. There were no significant differences between cancer groups, type of treatment received or age groups. Flexibility with work arrangements, and disclosure were factors related to working during treatment. Working during treatment was also associated with difficulties managing fatigue. Forty two percent of the respondents returned to work following treatment. Factors related to return to work following treatment included: difficulties managing fatigue, managing the stress of cancer, managing physical changes associated with cancer, receiving advice from their doctor about work and return to work meeting with their employer.
The study adds to the scant literature on experiences of cancer survivors. Further research is needed to better understand ways to assist survivors with return to work.