Not working 3 years after breast cancer: predictors in a population-based study

J Clin Oncol. 2005 Nov 20;23(33):8305-12. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2005.09.500. Epub 2005 Oct 11.


Purpose: Little is known about factors increasing likelihood of not working among breast cancer survivors compared with women in the general population.

Patients and methods: A population-based retrospective cohort study was conducted in Quebec, Canada, based on the consecutive series of working women aged younger than 60 years when first treated for breast cancer (identified through the Quebec Tumor Registry), and on a group of randomly selected similar women, living in Quebec, who were working at the time of survivors' diagnoses, but who were without cancer (identified through provincial health care files). Data came from a telephone interview, 3 years after diagnosis for 646 survivors (73% of those eligible) or during a similar period for 890 comparison women (51%).

Results: Slightly more survivors were not working 3 years after diagnosis compared with women never diagnosed with cancer (21% and 15%, respectively). Older age (for survivors and comparison women, relative risk [RR] = 4.62, P < .0001 and RR = 4.98, P < .0001, respectively) and union membership (RR = 1.88, P = .0003 and RR = 1.40, P = .06, respectively) increased the likelihood of not working at the end of follow-up. In addition, income less than 20,000 dollars compared with > or = 50,000 dollars was associated with not working only among survivors (RR = 3.18; P = .0008). Adjuvant treatments did not predict work cessation, but any new cancer event during follow-up did (RR = 2.14; P < .0001).

Conclusion: Although reassuring that adjuvant treatments did not appear to play a role in survivors' not working, other aspects of the cancer experience might nonetheless have influenced the decision to reduce work effort after breast cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Breast Neoplasms / rehabilitation*
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Matched-Pair Analysis
  • Middle Aged
  • Quebec
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Survivors* / statistics & numerical data
  • Unemployment / statistics & numerical data*