Cancer Survivors Face Employment Hurdles
Cancer Survivors More Likely Than People Without Health Problems to Be Unemployed, Study Shows
Feb. 17, 2009 -- Cancer survivors are more likely than people without
serious health problems to be unemployed, a new study indicates.
That’s especially true for breast and gastrointestinal cancer survivors,
says a report in the Feb. 18 issue of the Journal of the American Medical
Factors affecting employment status included discrimination because of
illnesses, adverse effects of cancer treatment, difficulty combining treatment
with full-time work, and physical or mental limitations, according to the
“Many cancer survivors want and are able to return to work after diagnosis
and treatment,” the authors say in a news release.
Angela G.E.M. de Boer, PhD, and colleagues at the Coronel Institute of
Occupational Health, Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam, analyzed results of
36 previous studies from the United States, Europe, and five other
The studies included information on 177,969 people, including 20,366 cancer
survivors and 157,603 healthy people.
Overall, cancer survivors were 1.37 times more likely to be unemployed than
the healthy comparison group.
Analysis by diagnosis showed that 35.6% of breast cancer survivors were
unemployed, compared to 31.7% of healthy individuals. Survivors of
gastrointestinal cancers and cancers of the female reproductive organs also
were found to be more likely than their healthy counterparts to be
Higher risks of unemployment were not evident in survivors of prostate,
testicular, and blood cancers.
Cancer survivors were more likely than healthy people to report physical
limitations or cancer-related symptoms as reasons for their unemployment.
“Voluntary unemployment is not likely unless patients have other resources
for income, which is not the case for most cancer survivors,” the authors say.
“Employment outcomes can be improved with innovations in treatment and with
clinical and supportive services aimed at better management of symptoms,
rehabilitation, and accommodation for disabilities.”
What’s more, they add, workplace interventions are called for to assist
cancer survivors, including paid sick leaves during treatment.
Such interventions are badly needed because they could offset financial
losses of cancer survivors and improve their quality of life, the authors say.
What’s more, many survivors are able to return to work and want to get back on
the job, regarding that point as a sign of full recovery.
Only Taina Taskila, PhD, reported getting funds to conduct research, which
came from the Finnish Work Environment Fund, a nonprofit governmental