Many Cancer Survivors Also Struggle with Unemployment

b_250_0_16777215_00_images_obgrabber_2014-04_a977d67f0d.jpgiStock/Thinkstock (ANN ARBOR, Mich.) -- Winning the battle against breast cancer often results in survivors struggling to regain their careers. New research published Sunday in the journal Cancer shows that nearly one-third of breast cancer survivors remain unemployed four years after treatment, with the highest unemployment rates among those who received chemotherapy.

Researchers from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center studied 746 women in Detroit and Los Angeles who had received diagnoses for early-stage breast cancer. They surveyed the patients nine months after diagnosis and followed up several years later.

Reshma Jagsi, a professor of radiation oncology, led the study and concludes that “loss of employment is a possible long-term negative consequence of chemotherapy that may not have been fully appreciated to date.”

Among the unemployed breast cancer survivors surveyed, 39 percent reported they were actively searching for work, while 55 percent said they wanted to work. As expected, the breast cancer survivors who remained unemployed also reported the worst personal finances.

Many cancer patients take time off of work during chemotherapy treatment to deal with the immediate side effects of the therapy, and the researchers believe that situation may lead to long-term employment problems.

The researchers also note that breast cancer survivors often require lengthy periods of convalescence during treatment, and that strains their connections to the working world.

In addition, the researchers say chemotherapy often causes long-term side effects such as cognitive problems, which may also dim employment prospects in a tight job market.

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