A new study reveals women battling and surviving breast cancer face another battle: keeping their jobs.

Women are losing employment following diagnosis and treatment, states the study published in the journal of the American Cancer Society. The trend is becoming common and employment loss is potentially related to the type of treatment a patient receives, say the authors.

Reshma Jagsi, MD, of the University of Michigan Health System, and her colleagues studied 2290 women in the Los Angeles and Detroit areas who were diagnosed with nonmetastatic breast cancer between 2005 and 2007 and who completed surveys soon after diagnosis; 1536 of the women also completed a four-year follow-up questionnaire.

"Many clinicians believe that although patients may miss work during treatment, they will 'bounce back' in the longer term. The results of this study suggest otherwise and highlight a possible long-term adverse consequence to adjuvant chemotherapy that may not have been fully appreciated to date," said Jagsi, in a release on the study.

The news comes at a time when greater awareness of the disease and diagnostic approaches are helping women get diagnosed earlier which leads to a greater level of survival. The American Cancer Society estimates 235,030 Americans will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year and 40,430 will die from the disease.

In the study Jagsi stresses the need to continue to develop strategies to identify patients who receive little benefit from chemotherapy and might be able to avoid it.

"We also need to ensure that patients who are deciding on whether to receive chemotherapy understand the potential long-term consequences of receiving treatment, including possible implications for their employment and financial outcomes," she said.

Of the 1026 patients under age 65 at diagnosis whose breast cancer did not recur and who responded to both surveys, 746 (76 percent) worked for pay before diagnosis. Of these, 236 (30 percent) were no longer working at follow-up.

Women who received chemotherapy as part of initial treatment were less likely to be working at the four-year follow-up than women who were not treated with chemotherapy (38 percent vs 27 percent). Calculations showed that women who received chemotherapy at the time of diagnosis were 1.4-times more likely to be subsequently unemployed. Many women who were not employed after treatment wanted to work: 50 percent reported that it was important for them to work and 31 percent were actively seeking work.

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