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Employment trends in young women following a breast cancer diagnosis



Little is known about how a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment affects job-related outcomes in young women with breast cancer, who are an integral part of the workforce. We sought to describe employment trends among young breast cancer survivors.


911 women with non-metastatic breast cancer were surveyed about employment-related outcomes 1 year post-diagnosis. Participants were enrolled in the Young Women’s Breast Cancer Study an ongoing, multi-center cohort of women diagnosed with breast cancer at age ≤ 40.


Among 911 women, median age at diagnosis was 36 years (range 17–40). Most women (80%, n = 729) were employed 1 year post-diagnosis. Among the 7% (n = 62) employed before diagnosis but who reported unemployment at 1 year, approximately half reported they were unemployed for health reasons. Among employed women, 7% said treatment affected their ability to perform their job. Women with stage-three disease (vs. stage 1 disease, odds ratio (OR): 3.73, 95% CI 1.39–9.97) and those who reported having money to pay bills after cutting back or difficulty paying bills at baseline (vs. having enough money for special things, OR 2.70, 95% CI 1.32–5.52) at baseline were more likely to have transitioned out of the workforce.


Our results suggest an impact of disease burden and socioeconomic status on employment in young breast cancer survivors. There is a need to ensure young survivors who leave the workforce following diagnosis are sufficiently supported given the potential adverse psychosocial and financial impacts of unemployment on survivors, their families, communities, and society.

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Thank you to the young women with breast cancer who participated in our study.


Dr. Rosenberg is supported by Grant No. K01HS023680 from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The funding agreement ensured the authors’ independence in designing the study, interpreting the data, writing, and publishing the report. Dr. Partridge is supported by grants for efforts focused on young women with breast cancer from Susan G. Komen (Grant No. SAC1000008), Breast Cancer Research Foundation (Grant No. BCRF17-121), and U.S. Centers for Disease Control (Grant No. CDC-U58DP005385). Dr. Vaz-Luis is supported by Grants from Susan G. Komen (Grant No. CCR17483507), ARC, and Odyssea.

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Correspondence to Shoshana M. Rosenberg.

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Dr. Partridge: Royalties from UpToDate. Dr. Vaz-Luis: Novartis, Astra-Zeneca, Ipsen (paid speaker). No other authors report relevant disclosures.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Rosenberg, S.M., Vaz-Luis, I., Gong, J. et al. Employment trends in young women following a breast cancer diagnosis. Breast Cancer Res Treat 177, 207–214 (2019).

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  • Employment
  • Breast cancer
  • Survivorship
  • Outcomes