Wage losses in the year after breast cancer: extent and determinants among Canadian women

J Natl Cancer Inst. 2008 Mar 5;100(5):321-32. doi: 10.1093/jnci/djn028. Epub 2008 Feb 26.


Background: Wage losses after breast cancer may result in considerable financial burden. Their assessment is made more urgent because more women now participate in the workforce and because breast cancer is managed using multiple treatment modalities that could lead to long work absences. We evaluated wage losses, their determinants, and the associations between wage losses and changes for the worse in the family's financial situation among Canadian women over the first 12 months after diagnosis of early breast cancer.

Methods: We conducted a prospective cohort study among women with breast cancer from eight hospitals throughout the province of Quebec. Information that permitted the calculation of wage losses and information on potential determinants of wage losses were collected by three pretested telephone interviews conducted over the year following the start of treatment. Information on medical characteristics was obtained from medical records. The main outcome was the proportion of annual wages lost because of breast cancer. Multivariable analysis of variance using the general linear model was used to identify personal, medical, and employment characteristics associated with the proportion of wages lost. All statistical tests were two-sided.

Results: Among 962 eligible breast cancer patients, 800 completed all three interviews. Of these, 459 had a paying job during the month before diagnosis. On average, these working women lost 27% of their projected usual annual wages (median = 19%) after compensation received had been taken into account. Multivariable analysis showed that a higher percentage of lost wages was statistically significantly associated with a lower level of education (P(trend) = .0018), living 50 km or more from the hospital where surgery was performed (P = .070), lower social support (P = .012), having invasive disease (P = .086), receipt of chemotherapy (P < .001), self-employment (P < .001), shorter tenure in the job (P(trend) < .001), and part-time work (P < .001).

Conclusion: Wage losses and their effects on financial situation constitute an important adverse consequence of breast cancer in Canada.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Breast Neoplasms / economics*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy
  • Canada
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cost of Illness*
  • Employment*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quebec
  • Salaries and Fringe Benefits*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires