Employment Outcomes among Cancer Survivors


Cancer and its treatment can precipitate a range of physical and psychosocial symptoms that may adversely affect patients’ and survivors’ ability to work. Although some symptoms may resolve after the conclusion of treatment, others persist long term or present as late effects. Symptoms such as pain, fatigue, restricted mobility, and cognitive limitations can force people to take prolonged sick leave, reduce their working hours, or drop out of the labor force entirely. These work limitations can lead to financial hardship, the loss of employer-subsidized group health insurance, and the loss of important social connections.

Cancer-related work limitations are a concern for a large proportion of cancer patients and survivors. Whereas approximately 46% of people diagnosed with cancer are between the ages of 20 and 64, older adults are increasingly remaining in the work force into their late 60s and 70s. Adverse work outcomes are an understudied side-effect of cancer, its treatment, and late or lasting effects of treatment. Although research has begun to describe how cancer impacts employment, major gaps in literature remain.

NCI is embarking on a coordinated set of activities to optimize employment outcomes among cancer survivors. Expected outcomes of this work are an increase in research studies focused on understanding and addressing cancer-related work limitations; the development of standard metrics of employment outcomes that could be integrated into clinical trials and routine clinical practice; and the establishment of a collaborative network of stakeholders to develop creative approaches to better understand and address work limitations following a cancer diagnosis and treatment.

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