Municipal return to work management in cancer survivors: a controlled intervention study

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INTRODUCTION: Resuming work during or after cancer treatment has become an important target in cancer rehabilitation.

PURPOSE: The aim was in a controlled trial to study the return to work (RTW) effect of an early, individually tailored vocational rehabilitation intervention targeted to improve readiness for RTW in cancer survivors.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: Participants diagnosed with breast, cervix, ovary, testicular, colon-rectal, and head-and-neck cancers as well as being employed were allocated to a vocational rehabilitation intervention provided by municipal social workers (n = 83) or to usual municipal RTW management (n = 264). The intervention contained three elements: motivational communication inspired by Acceptance and Commitment Therapy by which RTW barriers were addressed, municipal cancer rehabilitation and finally employer and workplace contact. RTW effect was assessed as relative cumulative incidence proportions (RCIP) in the control and intervention group within 52 weeks of follow-up, estimated from the week where treatment ended at the hospital. RCIP was interpreted and reported as relative risk (RR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI) adjusted for gender, age cancer diagnosis, education, comorbidity, and sick leave weeks.

RESULTS: Across cancer diagnoses 69 (83.1%) and 215 (81.4%) returned to work in the intervention and control group, respectively. No statistical effect was seen (RR 1.08 (95% CI 0.98-1.19)). Repeating the analyses solely for participants with breast cancer (n = 290) showed a significant effect of the intervention (RR 1.12 (95% CI 1.01-1.23)).

CONCLUSION: More than 80% returned to work in both groups. However, no statistical difference in RTW effect was seen across cancer diagnoses within one year from being exposed to an early, individually tailored vocational rehabilitation intervention compared with usual municipal RTW management.


Original languageEnglish
JournalActa Oncologica
Pages (from-to)370-378
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021

    Research areas

  • Cancer survivor, acceptance and commitment therapy, individual placement and support, occupational rehabilitation, readiness for return to work

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