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State vocational services and employment in cancer survivors

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This study investigated the association of state vocational rehabilitation services in the USA and work outcomes of cancer survivors who were unemployed prior to receipt of services.


Administrative data obtained during fiscal year 2005 from the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) database consisting of 1,201 closed cases with the diagnosis of cancer formed the sample of this study. All cancer survivors were unemployed at the time of application. Data on demographic characteristics, employment and vocational service variables were extracted and analyzed in relation to employment outcome data. Multivariate logistic regression was used to examine the relationship among services provided and work outcomes accounting for demographic characteristics of the participants.


Cancer survivors represented 0.4% of the total population that received vocational services in the state-federal vocational rehabilitation program. Of the unemployed cancer survivors who received services, 903 (57%) achieved successful employment while 670 (43%) were not employed following receipt of services. Gender (women; OR = 0.77, 95% CI = 0.61–0.97), lower educational levels (OR = 0.52, 95% CI = 0.33–0.81), provision of cash or medical benefits (e.g., Social Security Disability Insurance benefits; OR = 0.64, 95% CI = 0.50–0.82) were all associated with a greater likelihood of being unemployed at the end of vocational services. Counseling (OR = 1.33, 95% CI = 1.02–1.73), miscellaneous training (OR = 1.61, 95% CI = 1.06–2.44), rehabilitation technology services (OR = 1.22, 95% CI = 0.72–2.08), job placement services (OR = 2.37, 95% CI = 1.72–3.27), job search assistance (OR = 1.43; 95% CI = 1.02–2.01) maintenance services (OR = 1.92, 95% CI = 1.29–2.86), and other services (OR = 1.43, 95% CI = 1.07–1.90) were found to be significantly associated with increased odds for employment.


Vocational rehabilitation services were found to be associated with employment status. Future studies investigating the specific effects of certain vocational services for unemployed cancer survivors who qualify for these services are warranted.

Implications for cancer survivors

Cancer survivors who are seeking employment or experiencing problems maintaining employment who can qualify should be encouraged to pursue services from state vocational rehabilitation agencies. Medical providers should also become familiar with services offered by state vocational rehabilitation agencies and consider the use of these services..

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Preparation of this manuscript was supported in part by funding from the Rehabilitation Research Institute for Underrepresented Populations (National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research Grant #H133A031705) at Southern University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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Correspondence to Fong Chan.

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Chan, F., Strauser, D., da Silva Cardoso, E. et al. State vocational services and employment in cancer survivors. J Cancer Surviv 2, 169–178 (2008).

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