Self-reported work ability in breast cancer survivors; a prospective cohort study in the Netherlands

UMBRELLA study group

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Purpose: To evaluate patient-reported work ability of breast cancer patients, to compare scores with the Dutch general population, and to identify determinants of reduced work ability in breast cancer patients. Methods: In a prospective cohort study, we identified 939 patients <67 years. Employed patients filled out the Work Ability Index (WAI) questionnaire before the start of radiotherapy treatment (baseline) and at 6, 18, and 30 months. Work ability was compared with a matched Dutch cancer-free population (n=3,641). The association between (clinical) characteristics and work ability over time was assessed using mixed-effects models. Results: At baseline, 68% (n=641) of the respondents were employed and 64% (n=203) were employed at 30 months. Moderate or poor work ability was reported by 71% of patients at baseline, by 24% of the patients at 30 months and by 14% of the general population. Axillary lymph node dissection, (neo)adjuvant chemotherapy and locoregional radiotherapy were associated with reduced work ability. After 30 months, 18% of employed patients reported to have reduced their working hours, made substantial modifications to their work or were unable to work. Conclusion: Patient-reported work ability is strongly reduced during breast cancer treatment. Thirty months after treatment the proportion of women reporting poor or moderate work ability remains higher compared to the general population. Even though the proportion of women with paid employment is rather stable over time, substantial amendments in work are needed in 18% of patients. These findings emphasize the importance of informing patients on potential changes in work ability to allow shared decision making.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-53
JournalBreast (Edinburgh, Scotland)
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019

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