Work: saviour or struggle? A qualitative study examining employment and finances in colorectal cancer survivors living with advanced cancer

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    Abstract

    Purpose: Continuing employment or returning to work (RTW) as a cancer survivor can be meaningful and financially necessary, yet challenging. However, there is a lack of qualitative research on RTW experiences and financial wellbeing of people with advanced colorectal cancer (CRC-A). This study aimed to fill this gap. Methods: Adults treated for CRC-A were recruited 0.5–2 years post-surgery (or post-diagnosis of CRC-A for palliative chemotherapy participants). Semi-structured telephone interviews, exploring RTW and finances, were subjected to framework analysis. Demographic, clinical, and quality of life data (FACT-C, Distress Thermometer, COST measure) were collected to characterise the sample and inform the framework analysis. Results: Analysis of 38 interviews revealed five overarching themes: work as a struggle, work as my identity, work as my saviour, work as a financial necessity, and employer and colleague response. Many survivors with CRC-A desired to, and had the capacity to, continue work or RTW, yet faced unique challenges from compounded stigma of both cancer and toileting issues. Inability to RTW negatively impacted financial and psychosocial wellbeing. Workplace support was an important facilitator of RTW. Conclusion: For survivors with CRC-A, continuing or RTW is fraught with challenges, including physical functioning challenges, financial anxiety, and unsupportive workplace environments. Survivors require psychosocial, financial, and employer support to manage these difficulties. This paper recommends a multiprong approach, including education programmes (facilitated through workers’ union groups, human resource institutions, and/or large consumer CRC groups) and policies, to support workers and for employers to understand the unique challenges of employees with CRC-A.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)9057-9069
    Number of pages13
    JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
    Volume30
    Issue number11
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022

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