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Breast Cancer

One-third of chemotherapy patients unemployed after treatment, study says

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A patient receives chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer in France. (REUTERS/Eric Gaillard)

For women undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer, treatment may have negative consequences on long-term employment, Medical News Today reported.

Researchers at the University of Michigan Health System analyzed 2,290 women who had been diagnosed with non-metastatic breast cancer through post-diagnosis surveys focused on paid employment, financial issues, and other quality-of-life factors. Four years later, 1,536 women completed a follow-up questionnaire.

Of the patients under 65 who completed both surveys and whose breast cancer did not recur, 76 percent were employed before their diagnosis. Data from the follow-up revealed that 30 percent of those patients were no longer working.

Furthermore, the women who had undergone chemotherapy were less likely to be in paid employment, compared to those who did not receive chemotherapy as their first treatment. According to the researchers, women who underwent chemotherapy had a 1.4 times higher chance of unemployment following treatment.

While short-term employment loss is common among breast cancer patients, the long-term effect of treatment and paid employment had not been deeply researched.

"Many clinicians believe that although patients may miss work during treatment, they will 'bounce back' in the longer term,” said lead researcher Dr. Reshma Jagsi, an associate professor in the department of radiation oncology at the University of Michigan Health System. “The results of this study suggest otherwise and highlight a possible long-term adverse consequence to adjuvant chemotherapy that may not have been fully appreciated to date."

Researchers noted that doctors must focus on creating strategies to identify patients who would least benefit from chemotherapy and, therefore, may be able to avoid treatment.

The study was published in the journal Cancer.

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