Background: Sick-leave after primary cancer treatment has hardly been studied. This study compares Norwegian cancer patients (CPs) with shorter (≤8 months) and longer (≥9 months) sick-leave after primary cancer treatment. Our aim was to characterize factors associated with these two types of sick-leave in order to identify possible factors for interventions by which long-term sick-leaves may be avoided.
Methods: A mailed questionnaire was completed by a sample of Norwegian CPs 15 to 39 months after primary treatment of the ten most common invasive types of cancer. The groups with shorter (n=359) and longer (n=481) sick-leaves (SSL vs LSL) were compared with each other by self-reported information as to socio-demographic and cancer-related variables, health, quality of life, work ability, work situation and supportive interventions.
Results: The LSL consisted of 78% females, and 76% of them had breast or gynaecological cancer. A higher proportion of patients with low level of education, economical problems, treated with chemotherapy, hormones and multimodal treatment belonged to LSL compared to SSL. Significantly more LSL had recurrences of cancer, co-morbidity, regular use of medication, and poorer self-rated health, quality of life and work ability. Compared to SSL, more LSL reported needs for and offers of supportive care such as physiotherapy, physical activities and psychosocial support. A multivariate regression analysis showed that reduced work ability, changes in employment due to cancer, lack of support from supervisors at work, and having had combined treatment were significantly associated with being LSL.
Conclusions: Longer sick-leave after primary cancer treatment is associated with combined cancer treatment, lack of support from supervisors and reduced overall work ability. Interventions and counselling related to the work place and reduced work ability could be of value for prevention of long-term sick-leaves.