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Keywords:

  • cognition disorders;
  • neuropsychological tests;
  • oncology;
  • cancer;
  • return to work

Abstract

Objective: The objective of this study was to investigate the relationship between neuropsychological functioning and the ability to work in cancer survivors.

Methods: The study involved a consecutive cohort of 45 patients who had received a primary diagnosis of cancer, were gainfully employed at baseline, and had been treated with curative intent. Twelve months after the first day of sick leave, they underwent a neuropsychological assessment that included executive function and verbal memory tests. Other clinical, person-related, and work-related factors were also assessed by questionnaire at this time. Ability to work was measured as perceived workability (0–10) and work status at 12 months of sick leave.

Results: Fifteen participants (33%) showed neuropsychological impairments covering various domains. The mean workability score of cancer survivors with neuropsychological impairment was 4.9, whereas those without impairments had a mean score of 6.0 (raw β = −0.19: 95% CI = −2.9 to 0.7; adjusted β = −0.15; 95% CI = −2.5 to 0.8). More cancer survivors with neuropsychological impairments (7/15, 47%) than without (9/30, 30%) had not yet returned to work (raw OR 0.5: 95% CI: 0.1–1.8; adjusted OR 0.5; 95% CI: 0.1–2.1).

Conclusions: To date, this is the largest study to assess neuropsychological functioning objectively in combination with perceived workability and work status. Impaired neuropsychological functioning was found in one-third of the cancer survivors and was related to a lower vocational functioning, but the relationship was not statistically significant. More research is needed to test the relevance of neuropsychological impairments for vocational functioning. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.