(ChemotherapyAdvisor) – A study of changes in working time among women following a diagnosis of breast cancer has found administration of chemotherapy and cancer-related work limitations to be important factors in identifying those who might need support, according to an article in the Journal of Clinical Oncology published online July 9.

“A majority of women treated for breast cancer return to work and do so earlier than other patients with cancer,” the investigators reported. “Nevertheless, compared with women from the general population, women treated for breast cancer have a higher risk of sickness, absence, or unemployment. Thus, it is important to gain further insight into the return-to work process, including changes in working time.”

The population-based cohort study of patients identified in the Regional Breast Cancer Quality Register of Central Sweden examined changes in working time 16 months after a diagnosis of breast cancer to identify factors associated with job discontinuation and/or decreased working time. A total of 505 women aged 63 years or younger at diagnosis completed questionnaires at baseline and follow-up, approximately 4 and 16 months postdiagnosis.

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“Compared with prediagnosis working time, 72% reported no change in working time, 2% reported an increase, 15% reported a decrease, and 11% did not work at follow-up,” they found. Patients administered chemotherapy had an increased likelihood of both job discontinuation/decreased working time (OR, 2.45; 95% CI, 1.38–4.34). Among those who received, chemotherapy, associated factors included full-time work prediagnosis (OR, 3.25; 95% CI, 1.51–7.01), cancer-related work limitations (OR, 5.26; 95% CI, 2.30–12.03), and less value attached to work (OR, 3.69; 95% CI, 1.80–7.54). Among patients who did not receive chemotherapy, older age (OR, 1.09; 95% CI, 1.02–1.17) and less value attached to work (OR, 5.00; 95% CI, 2.01–12.45) were associated with the outcome.

“The majority of women treated for breast cancer returned to work to at least the same extent as before the diagnosis. However, one in four women did not work or had decreased working time. In particular, chemotherapy and cancer-related work limitations are important factors to take into account to identify women in need of support. It is also essential to consider that a breast cancer diagnosis may be followed by a reassessment of life goals. Thus, not returning to work or decreasing working time may be the optimal outcome for some women,” they concluded.