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.