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J Cancer Surviv. 2007 Jun;1(2):129-36. doi: 10.1007/s11764-007-0021-2.

Return to paid work after cancer: a British experience.

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  • 1Macmillan Research Unit, School of Nursing, Midwifery & Social Work, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK.



The impact of cancer on people's working lives is an increasingly important concern, yet, little is known regarding return to work after cancer in England. The rate of cancer patients who returned to paid employment within 18 months of diagnosis, and explored associations with demographic, clinical and work perception in one English region was investigated.


A postal survey of all cancer patients registered in North West England from June 2002 through December 2002. Participants were between the ages 18-55 with a primary diagnosis of cancer, in paid employment at the time of diagnosis and being judged by their General Practitioners as suitable for return to work.


Two hundred sixty-seven eligible patients returned a completed consent form and questionnaire, a response rate of 50%. The median age was 48 years. The majority of respondents (48%) were female with breast cancer, followed by colorectal (14%), prostate (9%) and lung cancers (6%). 82% of respondents returned to work. Treatment modality (absence of surgery) and the length of sick-leave were the only significant factors related to return to work (Odds Ratio 0.28 95% CI 0.08-0.94; Odds Ratio 1.68 95% CI .1.23-2.28). The median length of sickness absence was less than 6 months, longer in the most economically deprived quintile. One fifth of those who returned to work reported deterioration in job satisfaction and career prospects.


While a high proportion of respondents managed to return to their place of work 20% were not able to do so. The duration of sick leave absence was associated with more difficulties in returning to work. Despite the fact that males were more likely than females to take no sick leave, they were more likely to take longer periods of absence when they did (18 months and over). In addition, the length of sick leave was greatest in the most economically deprived group, and in those survivors of cancer diagnosis and treatment who did not receive surgery.

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