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Managing the cancer–work interface: the effect of cancer survivorship on unemployment

Authors Tracy JK, Falk D, Thompsom RJ, Scheindlin L, Adetunji F, Swanberg JE

Received 18 July 2018

Accepted for publication 24 October 2018

Published 28 November 2018 Volume 2018:10 Pages 6479—6487


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Beicheng Sun

J Kathleen Tracy,1,2 Derek Falk,1,3 Rebecca J Thompson,4 Lily Scheindlin,1 Fiyinfolu Adetunji,1 Jennifer E Swanberg1–3,5

1Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA; 2University of Maryland Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Maryland Medical Center, Baltimore, MD, USA; 3University of Maryland School of Social Work, Baltimore, MD, USA; 4Management Department, Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, PA, USA; 5Department of Health Policy and Management, School of Professional Studies, Providence College, Providence, RI, USA

Objective: This study assessed differences in employment outcomes among cancer survivors using data from a nationally representative sample.
Methods: The 2011 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) data and the 2011 MEPS Experiences with Cancer Survivorship Supplement representing 3,360,465 people in the US population were analyzed to evaluate factors associated with unemployment among cancer survivors during the 5 years following diagnosis and treatment. The sample included adults 1) diagnosed with cancer within 5 years prior to survey completion and 2) engaged in paid employment since diagnosis. Individuals diagnosed with nonmelanoma skin cancer (n=33) were excluded from analyses.
Results: Data of 221 cancer survivors were used to identify factors associated with employment status at the time respondents were employed (n=155) vs unemployed (n=66). Results of bivariate analyses indicated that unemployed survivors were older, more likely to be women, more likely to be uninsured at the time of cancer diagnosis, and to report lower incomes than cancer survivors who continue to be employed. Unemployed survivors were more likely than employed survivors to have had anxiety about being forced to retire or quit early when they were employed because of cancer and to report cancer-related interference with physical and mental aspects of their job tasks; unemployed survivors also took less paid time off and were less likely to change to a flexible job schedule when they were employed. In multiple logistic regression analyses, worry about being forced to retire (protective), worry that cancer recurrence will interfere with home or work responsibilities (risk), and change to a flexible work schedule (risk) following cancer diagnosis were associated with unemployment after controlling for demographic differences between employed and unemployed cancer survivors.
Conclusion: Findings of this study highlight the extent to which the challenges of managing the cancer–work interface create challenges to employment among cancer survivors and may lead to long-term unemployment among cancer survivors. Future studies should evaluate the strategies that the survivors could use to manage the cancer–work interface during cancer treatment to attain medical, psychological, social, and employment outcomes.

Keywords: work, employment, cancer-work-management, survivor

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