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Joblessness a Side Effect of Breast Cancer Chemo

Survey found over one-third who had the drug therapy were unemployed four years later


The study didn't go into the reasons for job loss, but Jagsi had some ideas. "It may be that they are experiencing long-term side effects, like nerve problems that can happen after certain kinds of chemotherapy, that can make it hard to drive a bus or type on a keyboard," she said.

Another possibility: "In the current economy, it's really hard to keep your job or get it back after you've missed a lot of work or stopped working during treatment," she said.

Other research has found that cancer survivors can experience long-term "chemo brain" -- a kind of mental fogginess -- after chemotherapy.

The other take-home message from her study, Jagsi said, is that women must become advocates for themselves and their careers. They should talk to the doctor in depth about the range of treatments and the pros and cons of each, she explained.

"In some cases, the marginal benefit of chemotherapy beyond all the other wonderful treatments we have is relatively small," she said. "And it may be that when all potential downsides are considered -- including potential long-term effects on employment -- that some women will decide that this benefit doesn't outweigh the risks."

The study findings point to an important issue, agreed Susan Brown, managing director of health and science education for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, an advocacy organization. "Quality of life after breast cancer treatment is of key importance," she said.

Currently, "we are not aware that employment implications are something that are generally considered at the time of treatment," Brown said.

Tools such as tumor profiling tests that indicate recurrence risk might help patients and their doctors make informed treatment decisions, she added.

"We encourage all women and men facing breast cancer to have a discussion with their health care provider, and discuss any treatment-related concerns they may have," Brown said.

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