A significant percentage of patients with metastatic cancer continue to work after diagnosis, with symptom burden having the strongest influence on whether patients continue to work. These study findings were published online ahead of print in the journal Cancer.1

Advances in treatment have led to improved survival for patients with metastatic cancer. Hence, continued employment is a significant issue for many patients, and a better understanding of the impact of symptoms on patients’ ability to work is needed.

An analysis of the ECOG-ACRIN Symptom Outcomes and Practice Patterns study was used to investigate factors associated with employment status of 668 working-age patients with metastatic cancer; 236 patients (35%) worked full- or part-time and 302 (45%) no longer worked due to their illness.

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Multivariate analysis showed that better performance status and non-Hispanic white ethnicity/race were significantly associated with continuing to work despite diagnosis of metastatic cancer. Modifiable factors such as receiving hormonal treatment, if an option, and reducing symptom burden were also associated with continuing to work.

Disease type, time since metastatic diagnosis, number of metastatic sites, location of metastatic disease, and treatment status had no meaningful impact on patients’ ability to continue to work.

The study findings show that treatments for metastatic cancer need to include minimizing modifiable factors so that patients who wish to continue to work are able to do so. “Improvements in symptom control and strategies developed to help address workplace difficulties have promise for improving this aspect of survivorship,” the researchers conclude.


1. Tevaarwerk AJ, Lee JW, Terhaar A, et al. Working after a metastatic cancer diagnosis: Factors affecting employment in the metastatic setting from ECOG-ACRIN’s Symptom Outcomes and Practice Patterns study [published online ahead of print December 21, 2015]. Cancer. doi:10.1002/cncr.29656.