Long-term employment status and quality of life after cancer: A longitudinal prospective cohort study from diagnosis up to and including 5 years post diagnosis

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BACKGROUND: Accumulating evidence suggests that cancer survivors are able to return to work. However, little is known about their work situation 5 years after diagnosis. OBJECTIVE: To explore fluctuations in employment status and its association with quality of life 2, 3, and 5 years after cancer diagnosis of 65 cancer survivors employed at diagnosis. METHODS: In association with a randomised controlled trial (RCT), questionnaires were administrated to eligible cancer survivors at diagnosis, 2, 3, and 5 years thereafter comprising of validated questionnaires related to work (i.e. Work Ability Index (WAI), cancer, and quality of life (QOL) (i.e. SF-36, VAS QOL). The RCT studied a hospital-based work support intervention in female breast and gynaecological cancer survivors who were treated with curative intent and had paid work at diagnosis. Descriptive statistics and longitudinal multi-level analysis were employed. RESULTS: Sixty-five of the 102 eligible cancer survivors participated, who were primarily diagnosed with breast cancer (63%). Two and 5 years after cancer diagnosis respectively 63 (97%) and 48 (81%) participants were employed. Reasons for not being employed after 5 years included receiving unemployment benefits (7%), voluntary unemployment (3%), receiving disability benefits (3%), and early retirement (3%). Longitudinal multi-level analysis showed that employed cancer survivors reported in general statistically significant better quality of life outcomes at 5 years follow-up compared to those not being employed. CONCLUSIONS: We found high employment rates and few fluctuations in employment status. The steepest decline in employment rate occurs after the first two years of diagnosis. Employed participants reported better quality of life outcomes. Survivorship care should therefore focus on the population at risk possibly within the first two years after diagnosis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)901-907
Number of pages7
JournalWork (Reading, Mass.)
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Neoplasm
  • cancer survivorship
  • labour participation
  • unemployment
  • work disability

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