FORCE’s eXamining the Relevance of Articles for Young Survivors (XRAYS) program is a reliable resource for breast cancer research-related news and information. XRAYS reviews new breast cancer research, provides plain-language summaries, and rates how the media covered the topic. XRAYS is funded by the CDC.
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Special populations: people living with metastatic prostate, colon, or lung cancer
Some patients who live with metastatic cancer either want or need to continue working while coping with symptoms of their disease and treatment. A recent study that looked at over 600 people with metastatic breast, prostate, colon, or lung cancer found that about one-third of them continue working full or part time. People most likely to continue working were those undergoing hormonal treatment and those with less severe symptoms or side effects from treatment. (4/12/16)
Factors that affect employment for patients with metastatic cancer.
Patients living with
metastatic cancer often need or want to continue working. According to the study authors, “a better understanding of how metastatic cancer affects employment is a necessary step toward the development of tools for assisting survivors in this important realm.”
This research indicates that some patients with
metastatic cancer continue working; however, whether this is because they feel like they need to work or because they want to work is unknown. Researchers suggest that patients who need to or wish to continue working talk to their health care provider about how they can reduce the severity of their symptoms.
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metastatic cancer patients live for many years with their disease. As more people find themselves in this situation, they need to discuss employment and related topics with their health care provider. Cancer and cancer treatment affects employment, so these issues need to be addressed because “research suggests that cancer patients are more likely to return to work if information about managing problematic work activities is provided.” Unfortunately, very little information is available about patients living with metastatic disease.
Through the Symptom Outcomes and Practice Patterns (SOAPP) study, Amye Tevaarwerk and her colleagues from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and other institutions published an article in the February 2016 issue of Cancer that looked at how many metastatic cancer patients continue working, and what factors are associated with employment.
How metastatic cancer affects employment.
This study included both male and female patients who:
This was a retrospective study, meaning that the researchers retrieved all their data from previously documented records of past patients, rather than collecting patient data specifically for this particular study. Other factors that were not directly studied or known to these researchers may have affected employment in this setting. Additionally, the researchers acknowledged that the study may have attracted certain types of patients. For example, patients with
metastatic cancer and severe symptoms may not have wanted to participate in the study about employment, and/or patients with relatively mild symptoms who were able to work full-time may not have visited the clinic as often where the study was recruiting participants, and missed the opportunity to participate.
While more work needs to be done to understand employment for patients with
metastatic disease, this study suggests that about one-third of people with metastatic cancer are currently employed either full-time or part-time. If continuing employment is something of interest, metastatic cancer survivors should discuss with their health care team what steps they can take to make their employment as comfortable as possible.
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ECOG-ACRIN cancer research group. “ECOG Performance Status.”
Tevaarwerk AJ, Lee J, Terhaar A, et al. “Working After a Metastatic Cancer Diagnosis: Factors Affecting Employment in the Metastatic Setting from ECOG-ACRIN’s Symptom Outcomes and Practice Patterns Study.” Cancer. 2016 Feb. 1; 122(3): 438-46.