Early-stage breast cancer and employment participation after 2 years of follow-up: A comparison with age-matched controls

Cancer. 2018 May 1;124(9):2026-2035. doi: 10.1002/cncr.31270. Epub 2018 Feb 13.


Background: Although cancer survivors are more likely to be unemployed than individuals without a cancer history, employment participation after treatment of early-stage breast cancer has not been widely studied to date. The objectives of the current study were to evaluate employment trajectories in a cohort of patients with early-stage breast cancer and age-matched controls from the time of diagnosis to the 2-year follow-up, and identify factors associated with diminished and emerging employment participation.

Methods: As part of a larger cohort study of 1096 patients with early-stage breast cancer and same-aged women without breast cancer, data from 723 working-age (aged 40-64 years) women (347 patients and 376 controls) were analyzed to evaluate 4 employment trajectories (sustained unemployment, diminished employment, emerging employment, and sustained employment). Multivariable logistic regression models were used to identify factors associated with diminished employment versus sustained employment, and emerging employment versus sustained unemployment.

Results: Lower percentages of patients (71%) compared with controls (79%) reported full-time or part-time employment at enrollment (P<.01). Fatigue was a significant predictor of diminished employment for both patients (odds ratio [OR], 5.71; 95% confidence interval [95% CI], 2.48-13.15) and controls (OR, 2.38; 95% CI, 1.21-4.68). Among patients, African American race (OR, 4.02; 95% CI, 1.57-10.28) and public/uninsured insurance status (OR, 4.76; 95% CI, 1.34-12.38) were found to be associated with diminished employment. Among controls, high social support was associated with emerging employment (OR, 3.12; 95% CI, 1.25-7.79).

Conclusions: Fatigued patients, African American patients, and publicly insured/uninsured patients with cancer were more likely to experience diminished employment after 2 years of follow-up. Further investigation with longer follow-up is warranted to identify factors associated with these disparities in employment participation after treatment of early-stage breast cancer. Cancer 2018;124:2026-35. © 2018 American Cancer Society.

Keywords: breast cancer; employment; fatigue; return to work; survivorship.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Breast Neoplasms / complications*
  • Breast Neoplasms / mortality
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cancer Survivors / statistics & numerical data*
  • Employment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Fatigue / epidemiology*
  • Fatigue / etiology
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities
  • Humans
  • Insurance Coverage / statistics & numerical data
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Middle Aged
  • Missouri / epidemiology
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retirement / statistics & numerical data*