Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 20, Issue 9, pp 1957–1964 | Cite as

Returning to work after treatment for haematological cancer: findings from Australia

  • Pam D. McGrath
  • Barbara Hartigan
  • Hamish Holewa
  • Maryanne Skarparis
Original Article

Abstract

Purpose

Despite the personal and economic importance of the issue of returning to work after cancer treatment, there are major limitations in the research literature on the topic. Indeed, in relation to the focus of the present article, the experience of return to work for Australian haematology patients, there is little research available.

Methods

The return-to-work findings are a sub-set from a study examining survivorship issues conducted through in-depth, qualitative interviews with a state-wide sample (n = 50) of individuals who were at least 1 year post-treatment for haematological malignancy.

Results

There were three groups identified in relation to employment: (1) those who were retired and work was not an issue, (2) those who had successfully re-entered the workforce and (3) those who wanted to work but were finding the process of return-to-work difficult. It is the third group that is the major focus for this paper.

Conclusions

The clear indications are that group 3 requires assistance with return-to-work and were vulnerable to a range of psychosocial distress caused by inability to return to employment. Supportive care strategies to assist return to employment are provided.

Relevance of manuscript to inform research, policies and/or programs

Current improvements in cancer treatments have not only increased the number of cancer survivors but also peoples’ ability to work during and following treatment. Maximising opportunities for cancer patients to return to work is a significant concern not only for individuals and employers but also economically for society. The findings reported in this article explored the individual story of a range of individuals with haematological malignancies in relation to their desire and efforts to return to work. Importantly, the findings not only provide insights on the work re-entry challenges faced by such individuals but also posit supportive care service delivery solutions to assist those who are vulnerable and frustrated in their efforts to find employment.

Keywords

Haematological malignancies Employment Qualitative research Supportive care 

References

  1. 1.
    Amir Z, Wynn P, Chan F, Strauser D, Whitaker S, Luker K (2010) Return to work after cancer in the UK: attitudes and experiences of line managers. J Occup Rehabil 20(4):435–442PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Mahar KK, Brintzenhofe K, Shields JJ (2008) The impact of changes in employment status on psychosocial well-being: a study of breast cancer survivors. J Psychosoc Oncol 26(3):1–17PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Pryce J, Munir F, Haslam C (2007) Cancer survivorship and work: symptoms, supervisor response, co-worker disclosure and work adjustment. J Occup Rehabil 17(1):83–92PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Taskila T, Lindbohm ML (2007) Factors affecting cancer survivors’ employment and work ability. Acta Oncol 46(4):446–451PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Rasmussen DM, Elverdam B (2008) The meaning of work and working life after cancer: an interview study. Psychooncology 17(12):1232–1238PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Short PF, Vasey JJ, Belue R (2008) Work disability associated with cancer survivorship and other chronic conditions. Psychooncology 17(1):91–97PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Quinlan E, Thomas-MacLean R, Hack T, Kwan W, Miedema B, Tatemichi S, Towers A, Tilley A (2009) The impact of breast cancer among Canadian women: disability and productivity. Work 34(3):285–296PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Park JH, Park JH, Kim SG (2009) Effect of cancer diagnosis on patient employment status: a nationwide longitudinal study in Korea. Psychooncology 18(7):691–699PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Fitschi L, Driscoll T (2006) Cancer due to occupation in Australia. Aust N Z J Public Health 30(3):213–219CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Gordon L, Lynch BM, Newman B (2008) Transitions in work participation after a diagnosis of colorectal cancer. Aust N Z J Public Health 32(6):569–574PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Cheung MC, Imrie KR, Friedlich J, Buckstein R, Lathia N, Mittmann N (2009) The impact of follicular (FL) and other indolent non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas (NHL) on work productivity—a preliminary analysis. Psychooncology 18(5):554–559PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Sanchez KM, Richardson JL, Mason HRC (2004) The return to work experiences of colorectal cancer survivors. AAOHN J 52(12):500–510PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Yarker J, Munir F, Bains M, Kalawsky K, Haslam C (2010) The role of communication and support in return to work following cancer-related absence. Psychooncology 19(10):1078–1085PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Tamminga SJ, de Boer AG, Verbeek JH, Frings-Dresen MH (2010) Return-to-work interventions integrated into cancer care: a systematic review. Occup Environ Med 67(9):639–648PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    McGrath P, Hartigan B, Holewa H, Skaparis M (2011) ‘Chemo Brain’: research findings indicate need for caution. AJC 10(3):33–41Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Short PF, Vargo MM (2006) Responding to employment concerns of cancer survivors. J Clin Oncol 24(32):5138–5141PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) (2010). Cancer in Australia 2010: an overview. Cancer series no. 60. Cat. no. CAN 56. Canberra: AIHWGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Amir Z, Neary D, Luker K (2008) Cancer survivors’ views of work 3 years post diagnosis: a UK perspective. Eur J Oncol Nurs 12(3):190–197PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Palmadottir G (2010) The role of occupational participation and environment among Icelandic women with breast cancer: a qualitative study. Scand J Occup Ther 17(4):299–307PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Park JH, Park JH, Kim SG, Lee KS, Hahm MI (2010) Changes in employment status and experience of discrimination among cancer patients: findings from a nationwide survey in Korea. Psychooncology 19(12):1303–1312PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pam D. McGrath
    • 1
    • 2
  • Barbara Hartigan
    • 3
  • Hamish Holewa
    • 4
  • Maryanne Skarparis
    • 3
  1. 1.International Program of Psycho-Social Health Research (IPP-SHR), Centre of National Research on Disability and Rehabilitation Medicine, Griffith Health InstituteGriffith UniversityMeadowbrookAustralia
  2. 2.KenmoreAustralia
  3. 3.Leukaemia Foundation of QueenslandSouth BrisbaneAustralia
  4. 4.Research Associate, Institute of Health and Social ScienceCQUniversityBrisbaneAustralia

Personalised recommendations