Women diagnosed with cancer as adolescents or young adults can be especially vulnerable to the impact of the disease and its treatment on their ability to work, according to a study published in the American Cancer Society. These employment disruptions have the potential to become financial hardships that significantly impact the lives of these female patients.

In the study, conducted at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the researchers surveyed 1328 women in North Carolina and California who were diagnosed with cancer between the ages of 15 and 39 years and who were also employed at the time of their diagnosis.

The researchers surveyed these women at a median of 7 years following diagnosis. The survey questions were designed to assess the impact of a cancer diagnosis and treatment on various aspects of survivorship.

Upon assessing the results, the researchers found that 32% of the women surveyed experienced employment disruption, which meant that they either stopped working altogether or worked fewer hours following their diagnosis.

Twenty-seven percent of the women surveyed reported that they needed to borrow money, go into debt, or file for bankruptcy due to their cancer treatment. Additionally, there was a 17% higher likelihood of women with disrupted employment needing to borrow money, go into debt, or file for bankruptcy than women without disrupted employment.

Furthermore, 50% of the women surveyed reported experiencing psychological distress due to large medical bills related to their cancer treatment. Those women who experienced disrupted employment also had an 8% higher likelihood of reporting this than women without disrupted employment.

"Our study addresses the burden of employment disruption and financial hardship among young women with cancer—a group who may be at particular risk for poor financial outcomes after cancer given their age and gender," said co-author of the study Clare Meernik, MPH, a social/clinical research specialist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in a press release. "Our findings highlight the need for effective interventions to promote job maintenance and transition back to the workforce after cancer treatment, as well as increased workplace accommodations and benefits, to improve cancer outcomes for young women."

Study examines cancer's effects on young women's employment and finances. Wiley; October 12, 2020. eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-10/w-sec100720.php. Accessed October 14, 2020.