Early work patterns for gynaecological cancer survivors in the USA

Occup Med (Lond). 2012 Jan;62(1):23-8. doi: 10.1093/occmed/kqr177. Epub 2011 Nov 17.


Background: Little is known about the balance between work demands and treatment plans for >4.3 million working-age cancer survivors in the USA.

Aims: To describe changes in work status for gynaecological cancer survivors during the first 6 months following diagnosis and their experience with their employers' programmes and policies.

Methods: One hundred and ten gynaecological cancer survivors who were working at the time of their cancer diagnosis completed a survey. Case record reviews documented their clinical characteristics and treatment details.

Results: Ninety-five women (86%) had surgery; 81 (74%) received chemotherapy, radiotherapy or both in addition to surgery. Nine per cent of women said that they changed their treatment plan because of their jobs; in contrast, 62% of women said that they changed their work situation to accommodate their treatment plan. Overall, the most common month for women to stop working was Month 1 (41%), to decrease hours was Month 2 (32%) and to increase hours was Month 6 (8%). Twenty-eight per cent of women were aware of employer policies that assisted the return to work process; 70% of women were familiar with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and 56% with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Only 26% completed a formal request for work accommodations. After 6 months, 56 of 83 women (67%) remained working or had returned to work.

Conclusions: Work patterns varied for these gynaecological cancer survivors over the first 6 months following diagnosis. Opportunities exist to improve communication about work and treatment expectations between cancer survivors, occupational health professionals, employers and treating clinicians.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Employment / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Genital Neoplasms, Female / rehabilitation
  • Genital Neoplasms, Female / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Survivors / statistics & numerical data
  • United States
  • Women, Working / psychology*
  • Work / statistics & numerical data*
  • Work Schedule Tolerance
  • Young Adult