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25.05.2019 | Original Article

Factors influencing return to work of cancer survivors: a population-based study in Italy

Supportive Care in Cancer
Sara Paltrinieri, Massimo Vicentini, Elisa Mazzini, Elena Ricchi, Stefania Fugazzaro, Pamela Mancuso, Paolo Giorgi Rossi, Stefania Costi
Wichtige Hinweise

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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s00520-019-04868-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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Little is known about return to work (RTW) of cancer survivors (CSs) in Central and Southern Europe. This study investigates the RTW rate of Italian CSs, describes their sick leave (SL) pattern, and explores factors affecting their RTW process.


A population-based cross-sectional survey involving CSs registered at the Cancer Registry of Reggio Emilia Province (Italy) was launched in July 2016. Eligibility was restricted to individuals with first diagnosis of cancer in 2012 (stages I–III), aged 20–59, and employed at the time of diagnosis.


Of the 266 individuals interviewed, 140 (52.6%) were reintegrated without difficulty, 113 (42.5%) returned to work with some difficulty, and 13 did not RTW (4.9%). The majority of CSs (56%) took SL for some periods during treatment. Age > 50 years and higher income seemed to facilitate RTW (RR = 0.65, 95% CI 0.49–0.88 and RR = 0.72, 95% CI 0.54–0.97, respectively), while being divorced acted as a barrier compared to being married (RR = 1.45, 95% CI 1.04–2.01). Individuals uncertain about the type of company they were working for reported greater difficulty in RTW (RR = 1.68, 95% CI 1.03–2.72). Individuals who had undergone chemotherapy and those perceiving physical limitations had a higher risk of difficulty in the RTW process (RR = 1.79, 95% CI 1.42–2.24 and RR = 1.59, 95% CI 1.25–2.02, respectively).


Most CSs did RTW, with 2/3 combining work and treatment. However, almost half reported difficulty in RTW process. Factors affecting this process should be addressed throughout context-specific social and healthcare pathways aimed at preventing difficulties and potential job loss in this population.

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