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Study looks at job status and quality-of-life issues among people with certain cancers


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Minneapolis — The ability to continue working may prove a key factor in quality of life for people with brain or spine cancer, researchers from the National Cancer Institute say.

The researchers looked at 2016-2019 data from 277 people with brain or spine cancer who participated in the Neuro-Oncology Branch Natural History study. Of the participants, 200 were employed – either full-time, part-time or self-employed. 

According to an American Academy of Neurology press release, the participants provided assessments of their symptoms and how those symptoms affected their daily lives. That included the impact of illness or treatment on physical, mental, social and emotional functioning.

The participants who were unemployed were more likely to report experiencing moderate to severe symptoms of depression (25% vs. 8% of the employed participants), moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety (30% vs. 15%) and higher levels of pain or discomfort (13% vs. 4%). “Those who were unemployed reported more problems with performing daily activities such as walking, washing, dressing and a reduced quality of life,” the release states.

Study co-author Heather Leeper, now with the University of Chicago and previously with NCI, emphasized the need to screen patients who have “financial issues that can affect their cancer journey” and develop programs that help minimize their impacts, such as creating return-to-work programs or other forms of financial assistance.

“The financial consequences of receiving a cancer diagnosis can be great and affect a person’s ability to keep their job and access health insurance,” Leeper said in the release. “This is especially true for people of working age.

“Our research found that being unemployed due to brain and spine cancer is strongly linked with more symptoms, more difficulty being able to perform daily tasks, reduced quality of life, as well as psychological distress, which may affect a person’s ability to return to work.”

The study was published online in AAN’s journal Neurology.

The nonprofit Job Accommodations Network offers practical suggestions – organized by limitation and work-related function – for accommodating a worker who has cancer. 

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