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]