Employment in a cohort of breast cancer patients

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BackgroundBreast cancer survivors can have problems in returning to work. However, the importance of work to cancer survivors has until recently received little attention.AimsTo investigate employment- and work-related disability in a cohort of breast cancer patients to identify possible discrimination and other obstacles to remaining in work.MethodsQuestionnaire study of breast cancer patients employed at diagnosis and where diagnosis had been confirmed at least 6 months before the interview. Participants completed a questionnaire concerning cancer-related symptoms and work-related factors and clinical details were obtained from their medical records.ResultsThe study included 96 consecutive patients with breast cancer aged between 18 and 65 years. In total, 80% of patients were unable to work after diagnosis, but 56% returned to work at the end of treatment. The sequelae of the disease or its treatment and the stage of disease were independently associated with the ability to work after the end of treatment. Only one patient did not tell his/her employers and coworkers about his/her disease. In total, 29% noticed changes in their relation with co-workers and managers, usually in the sense that they tried to be helpful. None reported job discrimination.ConclusionBreast cancer survivors in this study encountered some problems in returning to work, mainly linked to the sequelae of their disease and its treatment rather than to discrimination by employers or colleagues.

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