Poor women who are the treatment of breast cancer are four times more likely to lose their jobs than their high-income counterparts, a new study suggests.
The findings are consistent with stories Molly MacDonald should on the Pink Fund, Rochester Hills, Michigan, a non-profit she started to provide financial assistance to women with breast cancer in 2006, after a treatment for the disease left her unemployed and bankrupt.
“During the fight for their life, many patients lose their livelihoods,” MacDonald said in a telephone interview.
The loss of a disproportionately strikes poor women, probably because the low-wages and salaries per hour of employees tend to be more easily replaced, and their employers are probably less suitable for their needs as they go through time-consuming and draining of the treatment, MacDonald said.
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Dr. Victoria Blinder, a breast cancer oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, led a team of researchers who analyzed the status of the task of 267 racially and ethnically diverse women who were treated for invasive breast cancer between 2010 and 2016.
Income and employers are willing to look at the workplace accommodations were the driving factors in the question of whether women retain their jobs four months after the end of treatment of breast cancer, the researchers found.
Low-income women were only half as likely as higher income of the wife is the reception of employers and only one-fourth chance to their jobs, according to the results in the Health of the Business.
“We have shown that if they are able to obtain work accommodations, they are more likely to have their jobs,” Blinder said in a telephone interview. “The key is to try to help women, so that they stand up for themselves and optimize your chances of staying on a job that they want to keep.”
Patients have told her that if they don’t work, they are often in bed thinking about cancer.
“The psychological impact of going through a diagnosis and the treatments can be far-reaching. Work for many people it is a way to escape and to feel that they are in control,” she said.
Race and ethnicity had little impact on the question of whether women kept their work, the study, although the Chinese participants were less likely to continue working than white women, a statistic is diluted by the small number of women in both categories.
“The value of the paper is there does not seem to be a lot of ethnic or racial prejudice here,” said Dr. Patricia Ganz, a professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health in Los Angeles.
“The most important thing is the nature of the employment. If you are on a low income, your employer is more likely going to be inflexible about keeping your place,” she said in a telephone interview.
“It’s a social and private issue,” she said.
Ganz and Blinder both said that they regularly write letters to employers on behalf of the patients who need help standing up for themselves. In some cases, the solution is as simple as providing more breaks, or if the time for the treatment.
In other cases, MacDonald said, the save of a job would be impossible, as, for example, a bus driver who underwent a mastectomy feel pain, every time she shifts gears during the drive.
Blinder is working on developing a mobile health app that coach women on negotiation strategies for accommodations.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, government employers and private employers with 15 or more employees must make “reasonable accommodations” for employees with cancer diagnosis.
Nearly one in eight American women will get breast cancer in her life, the authors write.
A 2016 study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that people who underwent the treatment of cancer and bankruptcy protection were more likely to die than those who remained healthy.
A previous Health Affairs report found that a third of the working-age cancer survivors go into debt, and 3 percent for bankruptcy.