• employment;
  • cancer;
  • absenteeism;
  • work;
  • oncology


Background: A better understanding of how cancer treatments affect patient's employment may help patients and physicians make more informed choices between treatment alternatives. This study examined the number of days employed patients undergoing treatment for either breast or prostate cancer were absent from their jobs.

Method: Using the Detroit Surveillance, Epidemiology, End-Results registry, all potentially eligible women diagnosed with breast cancer and men diagnosed with prostate cancer were selected. Subjects who were employed full-time were included in this analysis.

Results: Women treated for breast cancer missed an average of 44.5 days from work; the median days missed was 22. The median days missed by women treated with surgery and chemotherapy was 40. Men diagnosed with prostate cancer missed an average of 27 days (median days=20) from work. The median days missed for men treated surgically without hormone or radiation therapy was 25. In multivariable analyses, taking a leave of absence and greater elapsed time from diagnosis to interview were associated with the greatest number of days absent from work for all patients. Men treated with hormone and/or radiation therapy or who were not treated missed fewer days from work relative to men undergoing surgery.

Conclusion: Research and interventions are needed to minimize work loss for cancer patients. Vocational rehabilitation programs may minimize the impact of treatment on work. Information on how treatments may infringe the ability for patients to earn a living may influence treatment decisions. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.