QIMR Berghofer

"Cancer Put My Life on Hold" Work-Related Challenges Among Middle-aged Adults 12 Months After a Diagnosis of Colorectal Cancer


Background: Colorectal cancer affects a wide range of working-age people. Little is known about the consequent work limitations. Objective: The aim of this study was to understand the extent and changing nature of work-related limitations of middle-aged (45-64 years) people over the first 12 months of colorectal cancer. Methods: Surveys were administered to participants recruited via the Queensland Cancer Registry, at 6 and 12 months after diagnosis. Among those who returned to work, the Work Limitations Questionnaire measured 4 job performance domains (time management, physical, mental-interpersonal, and output demands) and an overall productivity score. Open-ended questions supplemented the Work Limitations Questionnaire, and responses were thematically analyzed. Results: Of 239 participants, 8% did not continue in the study, and 20% left employment by 12 months, leaving 171 participants eligible for this analysis. Open-ended responses for why participants stopped work included bowel problems and stoma, loss of strength, and medication adverse effects. At 12 months, 22% to 39% of participants reported work limitations, but there was no overall significant change in work limitations between 6 and 12 months. Qualitative data highlighted the key work-related issues were changes in work functioning, attitudes of employers and colleagues, financial pressures, and emotional responses. Conclusions: While a significant proportion left work because of treatment-related problems, and the majority of participants did not experience workplace limitations, some reported considerable work-related challenges. Implications for Practice: Discussions with health professionals about the possible impact of treatment adverse effects on employment, good communication with employers, and workplace flexibility may facilitate return to work for this population.

Authors McGrath, Catherine; Mihala, Gabor; Beesley, Vanessa L.; Lynch, Brigid M.; Graves, Nicholas; Gordon, Louisa G.
Pages 160-167
Volume 40
Date 1/03/2017
Grant ID DP1095723
Funding Body Australian Research Council
URL http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=10.1097/NCC.0000000000000359