A study of Swedish women breast cancer survivors has found that most of them return to work after receiving treatment. Three-fourths of the 505 women surveyed went back to the workforce 16 months after having been diagnosed with the Big C. For women who were already working before they received confirmation that they had breast cancer, settling back into their old routine seemed to be easier: Seventy-two percent of them went back to their old jobs without decreasing their work hours. Only about 15 percent lessened their working time while a meager 11 percent did not go back at all.
The researchers, led by Marie Hoyer of Uppsala University in Sweden, considered it a “very positive finding that the majority of breast cancer patients return to their prediagnosis working time” although she stresses the importance of supporting “women who involuntarily leave the workforce due to their disease or treatment.” The women surveyed were less than 63 years old when they got afflicted with breast cancer.
Apparently, the mode of treatment chosen also determined whether a woman could go back to the daily grind afterwards. Those who opted for surgery and radiation were more likely to return to their regular schedules compared to those who underwent chemotherapy. The study found that a quarter of chemotherapy patients had to reduce their working hours. Hoyer advises cancer patients to talk to their physician about the side effects of their treatment: “Information about what to expect and how to handle potential side effects may facilitate rehabilitation and work resumption,” says Hoyer.
For women who are undergoing chemotherapy, the researchers urged doctors to administer treatment with the woman’s career in mind. Scheduling treatments at times when balancing it with work is more conveniently done or assisting them as they cope with the side effects can help.
The results of this Swedish study are also similar to the conclusions arrived at in another survey conducted in Detroit, Michigan among women breast cancer survivors aged 30 to 64 years old by researchers from the Departments of Medicine and Epidemiology of Michigan State University and the Department of Health Administration and Massey Cancer Center at Virginia Commonwealth University.
More than 80 percent of those studied returned to work after 12 months. Researchers Reynard R. Bouknight, Cathy J. Bradley, and Zhehui Luo concluded that workplace accommodations played a very important role in a cancer survivor’s decision to return to work. “In addition, perceived employer discrimination because of cancer was negatively associated with return to work for breast cancer
survivors.” They stressed: “Employers seem to have a pivotal role in breast cancer patients’ successful return to work.”
Category: News In Review