Cancer Survivors Call in Sick to Work More Often, Study Finds

THURSDAY, June 21 (HealthDay News) -- While many long-term cancer survivors return to work, they take more sick leave than their cancer-free colleagues, a new study finds.

Researchers analyzed data from more than 2,000 employed cancer survivors in Norway and more than 3,200 healthy people, and found that 75 percent of cancer survivors took sick leave during the first year after their diagnosis.

During the next four years, 23 percent of men and 31 percent of women recovering from cancer took sick leave, compared with 18 percent of healthy men and 27 percent of healthy women.

The investigators found that socio-demographic factors were more important predictors of sick leave during the five years of follow-up than the type or severity of cancer. These factors included being single with children, having a low level of education, working in the health and social care sector, and having taken sick leave before cancer diagnosis.

The study was released online June 16 in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of the Journal of Cancer Survivorship.

"Employed long-term cancer survivors may struggle with health impairments or reduced work ability five years after diagnosis. A socioeconomic and work environmental perspective seems necessary for occupational rehabilitation and the health and safety of cancer survivors, in order to reduce the rate of sick leave in this group," Steffen Torp, of Vestfold University College in Norway, and colleagues concluded in a journal news release.

The ability to work is important to help cancer survivors maintain self-respect, identity and their living standard. Previous research has shown that most cancer survivors return to work, but many report a reduced ability to work.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute offers an overview of life after cancer treatment.

SOURCE: Journal of Cancer Survivorship, news release, June 19, 2012

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