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Work and Cancer

Posted 10/20/2015

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  No two situations are exactly the same, but balancing work and cancer can be difficult for everyone. Work is an organizing principle in many of our lives; additionally, we depend on our paycheck and benefits, and the social support from work friends is very important. There are some people who cannot work through cancer treatment because of the nature of their jobs (e.g. preschool teachers who worry about little germ factories or manual laborers or nurses in the ICU) and others who need to work less or, at least, have flexibility with their assignments and hours.

Approximately 40% of cancer patients and survivors in the US are of working age and many need and/or want to keep their jobs. This is an interesting article from Cure Today about this question. Here is the start and a link:

The Work-Cancer Balance
Some patients want to work through illness and others need to, but juggling work responsibilities and
treatment regimens can be a challenge. By Leigh Labrie

While receiving chemotherapy at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, real estate agent Richard
Power often worked on his laptop with his cellphone and tablet close at hand. After twice-a-month
treatments with Avastin (bevacizumab), leucovorin, fluorouracil and Camptosar (irinotecan) at Dana-
Farber, Power, 63, would leave for his Marshfield, Massachusetts, home with a portable pump that
administered fluorouracil for two days. Despite feeling fatigued after each treatment, dealing with bowel
issues such as constipation and diarrhea, and having an occasional chemotherapy-induced stutter, Power
managed to balance his demanding job with his treatments.
Power has been employed steadily since his stage IV colon cancer diagnosis in 2010. Typically he wakes up
at 5:30 a.m., and after a cup of coffee, he’s ready to sell real estate in Marshfield and Scituate, coastal
towns about 30 miles southeast of Boston. Power says real estate work never stops: He’s busy seven days a
week meeting with clients, posting listings and showing properties.
“It keeps your mind off things,” he says of his work. “It allows you to feel normal, and it allows you to feel
like you have part of your life back.”

From a different perspective comes this study from the European Journal of Oncology Nursing.  Here is the abstract about the importance of social support at the workplace. Note that this study was examining the work lives of health care workers.

Work engagement in cancer care: The power of co-worker and supervisor support
Michael G. Poulsen a, b, *, Asaduzzaman Khan c, Emma E. Poulsen d, Shanchita R. Khan e,
Anne A. Poulsen c

a b s t r a c t
Purpose: Co-worker and supervisor support can provide knowledge, advice and expertise which may
improve motivation, confidence and skills. This exploratory study aimed to examine the association of
co-worker and supervisor support, and other socio-demographic and practice variables with work
engagement for cancer workers.
Methods: The study surveyed 573 cancer workers in Queensland (response rate 56%). Study participants
completed surveys containing demographics and psychosocial questionnaires measuring work engagement,
co-worker and supervisor support. Of these respondents, a total of 553 responded to the items
measuring work engagement and this forms the basis for the present analyses. Oncology nurses represented
the largest professional group (37%) followed by radiation therapists (22%). About 54% of the
workforce was aged >35 years and 81% were female. Multiple regression analysis was performed to
identify explanatory variables independently associated with work engagement for cancer workers.
Results: After adjusting for the effects of other factors, co-worker and supervisor support were both
significantly associated with work engagement. Having 16 years or more experience, being directly
involved in patient care, having children and not being a shift worker were positively associated with
work engagement. Annual absenteeism of six days or more was associated with low work engagement.
The fitted model explained 23% of the total variability in work engagement.
Conclusions: This study emphasises that health care managers need to promote co-worker and supervisor support in order to optimise work engagement with special attention to those who are not directly involved in patient care.
© 2015 Published by Elsevier Ltd


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