Aim: To determine the burden returning to work places on cancer survivors, what predicts success, and what interventions are effective to support return to work.
Methods: A systematic review between 2010 and 2015 from 6 databases identified 25 studies examining interventions for cancer patients and those with other conditions returning to work. We reviewed other publications on returning to work and collected data from focus groups of cancer patients.
Results: Of patients diagnosed with a curable cancer ½ are under 65 years and approximately one third of patients do not return to work. they are 1.4 times more likely to remain unemployed than heathy controls. This is worse than patients with other chronic diseases. For cancer survivors, factors predicting the ability to work include: state of health, functional capacity, competency and attitude. The work environment, the physical, mental, technical and social demands of the work, the work community and management attitudes and organizational culture also impact also impact on the likelihood of employment. The society in which the survivor lives impacts on employment depending on the overall unemployment rate, exit policies, social and health services and whether factors like age discrimination still exist. The skill level predicts the ability to return to work, with less skilled workers having more difficulty. There is insufficient data about factors like low socioeconomic state or living in rural and remote communities. Few studies assess interventions in vulnerable groups. Australian studies have shown that the provision of information and support about return to work is an unmet need.
Conclusions: Further research needs to identify interventions that would be helpful in supporting cancer survivors in returning to work. More information is required about strategies to enable vulnerable patients such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to return to employment after cancer.