Race Determined to Be a Major Factor for Employment of Breast Cancer Survivors

A new study by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis finds a racial disparity in women who experience job loss after being diagnosed with breast cancer. The study also found that employment status two years after initial diagnosis was not related to any clinical or treatment-related factors.

The data showed that African-American patients were four times more likely to leave the workforce despite fighting a cancer with high survival rates than was the case for White patients of the same age. The results also showed that African American patients were more likely to return to a lower-level job within the first two years of being cancer-free.

Christine Ekenga, an assistant professor of public health at Washington University and the lead author of the study, said that these results have major implications for health of cancer survivors. “Paid employment has the potential to mitigate the financial stresses associated with cancer,” she said. “Moreover, for women with breast cancer, employment could play a significant role in post-diagnostic health. Health benefits associated with employment include an increased sense of purpose, higher self-esteem, and a stronger sense of social support from others, all of which have been associated with improved quality of life.”

Dr. Ekenga joined the faculty at Washington University in 2016. She is a graduate of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, where she majored in environmental science and chemistry. Dr. Ekenga earned a master of public health degree from San Diego State University and a Ph.D. in environmental health sciences from New York University.

The study, “Early-Stage Breast Cancer and Employment Participation After Two Years of Follow-Up: A Comparison With Age-Matched Controls,” was published on the website of the journal Cancer. It may be accessed here.

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