Advances in diagnosis and treatment has increased the 5 year survival rate among individuals with cancer. With this improvement, comes and increase in individuals who will return to work. Return to work is important in order to improve quality of life, a sense of normalcy and in terms of economic well being. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) may offer legal protections to survivors both before and after treatment. Few studies have looked at return to work experiences among cancer survivors and how the ADA provisions may related to that experience.
The purpose of this study is to determine factors (related to the ADA) that influence a successful return to work for cancer survivors.
Patients were recruited from an oncology department in a metropolitan hospital in Minnesota and a focus group was held.
Seven individuals attended a 2 hour focus group help at the hospital. All were female and four were breast cancer survivors. The majority were white, married and had a Bachelor's degree or higher level of education. Participants had been employed 8 to 20 months prior to diagnosis.
A focus group was help to identify common themes about health, health care, economic security, and return to work. Analysis were descriptive and qualitative. Transcripts of the group meeting were read along with moderator notes. General themes were pulled from this material.
The intervention in the study included job accommodations and supports.
There was no control or comparison condition.
For the majority of participant (N=5) the reason for returning to work was an essential part of their healing. All members of the group were aware of the ADA however, none had engaged in formal conversations with their employers about its provisions. Factors aiding in return to work included: job flexibility, coworker support,and health care provider support. Factors hindering return to work were: ignorance about cancer in the workplace, lack of emotional support, physical effects of cancer, and the impact of cancer on the person's priorities.
Occupational nurses have an important role to play in the return to work of individuals who survive cancer. They need to be aware of the positive and negative factors that influence return to work and understand the legal requirements such as the ADA.