Background: Employment-related issues have been largely overlooked in cancer patients needing palliative care. These issues may become more relevant as cancer evolves into more of a chronic illness and palliative care is provided independent of stage or prognosis. Objective: To characterize the employment situations of working-age palliative care patients. Design: Cross-sectional survey setting/subjects: Consecutive sample of 112 patients followed in palliative care outpatient clinics at a comprehensive cancer center. Measurements: Thirty-seven-item self-report questionnaire covering demographics, clinical status, and work experiences since diagnosis. Results: The commonest cancer diagnoses were breast, colorectal, gynecological, and lung. Eighty-one percent had active disease. Seventy-four percent were on treatment. Eighty percent recalled being employed at the time of diagnosis, with 65% working full time. At the time of the survey, 44% were employed and 26% were working full time. Most participants said work was important, made them feel normal, and helped them feel they were "beating the cancer". Factors associated with being employed included male gender, self-employed, and taking less than three months off work. Respondents with pain and/or other symptoms were significantly less likely to be working. On multivariate analysis, only pain (odds ratio [OR] 8.16, p < 0.001) and other physical symptoms (OR 5.90, p = 0.012) predicted work status; gender (OR 2.07), self-employed (OR 3.07), and current chemotherapy (OR 1.81) were included in the model, but were not statistically significant in this small sample. Conclusion: Work may be an important issue for some palliative care patients. Additional research is needed to facilitate ongoing employment for those who wish or need to continue working.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine