A recent study reveals that about a third of the people with terminal cancer are still working despite their incurable disease. At the same time, the majority of them keep working until they become too sick to be able to continue.
The study, published on December 21 in Cancer journal says that one of the major factors that stops a person dying of cancer from working or keeps them going is the severity of their symptoms. Other factors, such as the type of cancer, gender or type of treatment are not having such a great impact on the decision.
For this analyze, a team of researchers, led by oncologist Amye Tevaarwerk from the University of Wisconsin looked at the data from a research project which tracked more than 3,000 patients who were receiving treatment for breast, colon, prostate or lung cancer.
Among the 3,000 tracked patients, 668 were people of working age which have between one and five years left to live. They all had cancer spread to multiple organs which is going to kill them in the near future. Of all these people, 236 – which is 35 percent – were still working either full or part time.
According to Tevaarwerk, there can be more reasons which keep these people working. While some of them might depend on the income or on their health insurance, others might need the social support or even a distraction or a sense of normalcy to keep them going.
The research team wasn’t able to provide an official explanation, based on field data since they worked with data from another study. However, they designed a statistical analysis which they hoped to reveal what influences a person’s decision.
Their findings show that factors such as cancer’s location or type, the treatment received and the time that passed since they were diagnosed don’t have a great influence on a person’s decision to abandon work.
The team has found out that the severity of the symptoms is the factor that influences patients the most. Cancer symptoms may include numbness, memory problems, drowsiness, fatigue, severe pain and others.
Tevaarwerk argues that doctors might be able to help patients who insist to keep working while dying of cancer. While other factors, such as the location of the cancer cannot be changed by the doctors, they can help with controlling the symptoms.
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