Reduced work ability in cancer survivors

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Published: 9 Sep 2017
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Dr Cecilie Kiserud - Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway

Dr Kiserud presents in a press conference at the ESMO 2017 Congress about the issues of reduced workability in long term survivors related to adolescent and young adults with cancer. She states that the main factors reported to reduce workability were low level of education, female sex, lymphedema, increased level of fatigue, increased level of depression, reduced physical quality of life and a prior diagnosis of non-hodgkin's lymphoma. 

Thank you and thank you for the possibility to present our study of factors associated with reduced work ability in long-term cancer survivors treated in young adulthood, here defined as age 19-39 years. It’s a phase of life focussed on career development, establishment of pair civil status and parenthood. A cancer diagnosis and treatment during these years may interfere with these tasks. On this background the purpose of this study was to investigate factors associated with reduced work ability among cancer survivors treated in young adulthood.

Patients diagnosed with melanoma, colorectal cancer, breast cancer stages 1-3, non-Hodgkin lymphoma or leukaemia in 1985 to 2009 aged 19-39 at diagnosis and alive in September 2015 were identified through the cancer registry of Norway. Participants were mailed a questionnaire about several late effects of treatment and work ability. Their current work ability compared to lifetime best was scored from zero, which is no work ability, to ten, highest work ability, on a scale of the Work Ability Index. In total there were 1,198 participants, 63% females. The median age at survey was 49 years with 13 years in median since treatment.

This slide shows the main results from the multivariable statistical analysis which showed that the following factors were significantly associated with reduced work ability. That was a low level of education, female sex, lymphedema, increased level of fatigue and increased level of depression, reduced physical quality of life and a prior diagnosis of non-Hodgkin lymphoma with the melanoma group as the reference.

To summarise, among cancer survivors treated in young adulthood many psychological and somatic factors were significantly associated with reduced work ability at the median of 13 years since treatment. Awareness is needed that cancer survivors could be less able to work after treatment because of the late effects they might experience. These findings highlight the long-lasting consequences cancer treatment at a young age can have. Educating both the survivors and healthcare professionals about late effects and providing ongoing follow-up care may help mitigate such adverse consequences. Thank you.