Working women in US who survive breast cancer and chemo 30% more likely to lose their jobs within 4 years

A new study shows that working women with breast cancer who receive chemotherapy and live for four or more years after treatment are 30% more likely to lose their jobs within those first four years of survival.

The focus of the study is on women who receive chemotherapy, and researchers say their findings should be considered when patients decide whether to receive adjuvant chemotherapy (that's chemo after surgery, as opposed to before surgery), "particularly when the expected benefit is low."

Meaning, for some patients, it's very clear that chemo will likely improve survival and recurrence odds, but for some, it's not. In those not-so-clear patient decision scenarios, the likelihood you'll lose your job is one of many factors to be considered. How messed up is that?

From a CBS News summary:

Researchers at the University of Michigan Health System found that 30 percent of women who had jobs when they began treatment for breast cancer were unemployed four years later. The study also found that the type of treatment women received had a direct impact on their likelihood of being unemployed. According to the report, women who underwent chemotherapy had a 1.4 times higher chance of unemployment following treatment.

Many people are forced to take time off while getting chemotherapy treatment to deal with extreme fatigue, nausea and other immediate side effects of the therapy. The researchers say it's possible this could lead to long-term employment problems for a number of reasons. For example, chemotherapy treatments can cause long-term side effects such as neuropathy or cognitive issues, causing a drop-off in work performance. More than half of the women who had lost their jobs said it was important for them to work and 39 percent said they were actively looking for work. Those who were not working were significantly more likely to report they were worse off financially.

As a breast cancer survivor who has many female friends who've survived cancer and the ravages of treatment, this does not surprise me at all. I am very fortunate to still have my job, and am grateful for it every day.

The findings appear in the April 28 edition of the journal Cancer.

Read the study online: "Impact of adjuvant chemotherapy on long-term employment of survivors of early-stage breast cancer"

[HT: @BWJones]

Notable Replies

  1. i wonder what the numbers are like for men who have cancer

  2. Paragraph 1: "A new study shows that working women with breast cancer who receive chemotherapy and live for four or more years after treatment are 30% more likely to lose their jobs within those first four years of survival"

    CBS Summary: "Researchers at the University of Michigan Health System found that 30 percent of women who had jobs when they began treatment for breast cancer were unemployed four years later. "

    These two sentences say completely different things. The first states that it is a comparison, while the second is an absolute rate. The key to the comparison is how many women who weren't diagnosed with breast cancer were unemployed four years later. If that number is also 30%, effect due to cancer/chemo would be zero.

  3. Wait: the current unemployment rate is 30%?

    Of course not. Not even close. You're exaggerating to make it seem like it's no big deal that working women who are chemo survivors have a greater chance than the norm (whatever that norm is) of losing their jobs as a result of treatment.

    But yes, I would like to see the compare-&-contrast with working men going through chemo as well. We might find out the numbers are even starker. Or we might find out that employers really are that mercenary toward everyone.

  4. And of those looking at the numbers - here are the numbers from the abstract (I don't have access to full article)
    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/cncr.28607/abstract

    RESULTS
    Of the 1026 patients aged < 65 years at the time of diagnosis whose breast cancer did not recur and who responded to both surveys, 746 (76%) worked for pay before diagnosis. Of these, 236 (30%) were no longer working at the time of the follow-up survey. Women who received chemotherapy as part of their initial treatment were less likely to be working at the time of the follow-up survey (38% vs 27%; P = .003). Chemotherapy receipt at the time of diagnosis (odds ratio, 1.4; P = .04) was found to be independently associated with unemployment during survivorship in a multivariable model. Many women who were not employed during the survivorship period wanted to work: 50% reported that it was important for them to work and 31% were actively seeking work.

  5. Bobo says:

    As a practicing veterinarian, this statement is complete BS. I'll agree that our true client is the owner, they have final say, as they're the ones who have to pay the bill, and have to make decisions for a patient that clearly cannot make decisions for themselves, but to say that "the patient on the table isn't considered to have a stake in the outcome" is ridiculous and insulting.

    We Vets are in the unfortunate and hopefully unenviable position that we are honestly trying to practice the best medicine with our patient's outcome as our PRIMARY concern, but we're beholden to the people who hold the purse strings. I can't tell you the number of Vets who comp services or end up getting burned out because of the sometimes incompatibility between the patient's best medical interests (which is the Veterinarian's primary concern), and the financial, or sometimes simply emotional concerns of the clients who make the final decisions.

Continue the discussion bbs.boingboing.net

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