Many men struggle to work after prostate cancer

Men diagnosed with Prostate cancer are less likely than unaffected men to be working six months later, finding that the cancer and its treatment interferes with their ability to work, according to new research.

Even 12 months after being diagnosed with cancer, more than one-quarter of men said that the cancer affected how well they could perform physically demanding tasks at work.

Study author Dr. Cathy J. Bradley explained that she and her colleagues did not ask men what aspects of their treatment were most disruptive, but noted that men sometimes experience bowel problems and urinary incontinence after prostate cancer treatment.

These symptoms may have “interfered with their ability to work because they could not be far from the bathroom,” she said. “This may have also interfered with their ability to concentrate,” the researcher, based at the Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, added.

According to the team’s report in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, nearly 2 million American men have survived Prostate cancer. Some organizations now recommend screening for prostate cancer before age 65, suggesting that an increasing number of men may be diagnosed at younger ages.

Treatment for Prostate cancer can cause a wide range of side effects, including urinary and bowel problems such as Diarrhea, pain and cramping. Men who undergo androgen deprivation therapy to reduce levels of testosterone - which drives tumor growth - may also experience hot flashes, fatigue, changes in body weight, and sexual problems.

To investigate how these side effects may affect men who are still working, Bradley and her team followed 267 men diagnosed with prostate cancer between ages 30 and 65 for 12 months.

The researchers found that men with prostate cancer were 10 percent less likely to be working 6 months after their diagnosis than men without Prostate cancer.

Twenty-six percent of men said their cancer had affected how well they perform physical tasks, while up to 16 percent of men said they noticed changes in their ability to concentrate, keep up with others, and learn new things.

Nearly 4 out of 10 men with prostate cancer who continued to work said they did so in order to keep their health insurance, suggesting that “men may trade-off recovery and work to maintain health insurance,” Bradley noted.

“Time away from work may have considerable economic implications,” she added. “Employers need to understand that recovery can be somewhat lengthy.”

In an accompanying editorial, Dr. James A. Talcott of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston notes that men were equally as likely to be employed 12 months after their diagnosis as other men without prostate cancer, a “reassuring” finding.

Still, “it would not be surprising if some men found the likely impact on future employment decisive in choosing a treatment,” he adds.

SOURCE: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, July 6, 2005.

Provided by ArmMed Media
Revision date: July 6, 2011
Last revised: by Andrew G. Epstein, M.D.