Facilitators and barriers to employment for rural women cancer survivors

J Cancer Surviv. 2023 Oct;17(5):1338-1346. doi: 10.1007/s11764-022-01179-y. Epub 2022 Feb 10.


Purpose: Limited research exists on the employment experiences of rural women cancer survivors, yet this population may face unique barriers to employment following a cancer diagnosis. This study aims to identify facilitators and barriers to employment for rural women cancer survivors.

Methods: We used a qualitative descriptive design to examine facilitators and barriers to employment for rural women cancer survivors. We conducted interviews with 33 rural women with cancer histories.

Results: Facilitators of employment included paid time off, flexible work arrangements, and supportive workplace social networks, while barriers to employment included compromised immunity, long-term treatment effects, stigma and discrimination, and limited rural job markets. Rural women with secure employment histories generally experienced facilitators of employment, while rural women with insecure (e.g., temporary, informal, non-standard) employment histories generally faced barriers to retaining jobs and finding employment.

Conclusions: Formal and informal workplace support helped rural women retain their jobs during and following cancer treatment, especially those with secure employment. However, women with insecure employment histories generally faced multiple barriers to retaining and finding employment. More inclusive policies to support workers facing disabling illnesses, such as paid medical leave, are needed to ensure cancer survivors can maintain employment and/or financial security during and following their cancer treatment.

Implications for cancer survivors: Cancer survivors with secure employment may benefit from formal and informal workplace support in retaining their employment. Those with insecure employment histories may benefit from access to job placement services and inclusive policies protecting employment for all workers experiencing disabling illness.

Keywords: Cancer survivors; Employment; Qualitative; Return to work; Rural.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cancer Survivors*
  • Employment
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Rural Population
  • Workplace