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More than a third of cancer patients continue to work

By Stephen Feller
More than a third of cancer patients continue to work
More than half of metastatic cancer patients experienced some change to their work lives after diagnosis, and nearly half stopped working, according to the new study. Photo by sebra/Shutterstock

MADISON, Wis., Dec. 21 (UPI) -- Regardless of what kind of cancer patients have or how it is treated, management of symptoms significantly influenced metastatic cancer patients' decision to continue working.

Researchers in a study at the University of Wisconsin found more than one-third of people with metastatic cancer continued to work. They said a focus on controlling symptoms could help continue to improve the number of people who keep living their normal lives while battling cancer, based on the study.

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"For patients with metastatic cancer, a great deal of attention is focused on the events surrounding initial diagnosis of disease and the issues surrounding the end-of-life," said Dr. Amye Tevaarwerk, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in a press release. "Between cancer recurrence and the end-of-life, these patients are living their lives day-to-day and there are a number of unique survivorship issues during this time that have been overlooked by researchers,"

The researchers surveyed 668 working-age metastatic cancer patients, finding 35 percent worked full- or part-time and 45 percent stopped working due to cancer. Overall, 58 percent said their illness had caused some change in employment.

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While better results from treatment and the patient's race were found to be significant factors in the decision to continue employment, researchers were surprised to find type of cancer, number of metastatic sites, treatment and time since diagnosis had no effect on whether patients had continued to work.

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The researchers said modifiable factors that interfere with work should be minimized to help patients continue to work if they want to, and that improvements in controlling symptoms could increase the number of patients able to keep working.

"Efforts to control symptoms may enable more patients to achieve this particular goal, and further research is needed to help us understand what other resources would benefit metastatic patients continuing to work."

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The study is published in the journal CANCER.

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