Late effects of cancer (treatment) and work ability: guidance by managers and professionals

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The prevalence of the group of workers that had a cancer diagnosis in the past is growing. These workers may still be confronted with late effects of cancer (treatment) possibly affecting their work ability. As little is known about the guidance of this group, the aim of this study was to explore the experiences and ideas of managers and professionals about the guidance of these workers in the case of late effects of cancer (treatment). Given the positive associations with work ability of the job resources autonomy, social support by colleagues and an open organisational culture found in several quantitative studies, these job resources were also discussed. Further ideas about the influences of other factors and points of attention in the guidance of this group of workers were explored.

Semi-structured interviews were conducted with managers (n = 11) and professionals (n = 47). Data-collection was from November 2019 to June 2020. The data were coded and analysed using directed content analyses.

The late effects of cancer or cancer treatment discussed were physical problems, fatigue, cognitive problems, anxiety for cancer recurrence, and a different view of life. The self-employed have less options for guidance but may struggle with late effects affecting work ability in the same way as the salaried. Late effects may affect work ability and various approaches have been described. Autonomy, social support of colleagues and an open organisational culture were regarded as beneficial. It was indicated that interventions need to be tailor-made and created in dialogue with the worker.

Especially with respect to cognitive problems and fatigue, guidance sometimes turned out to be complicated. In general, the importance of psychological safety to be open about late effects that affect work ability was emphasized. Moreover, it is important to take the perspective of the worker as the starting point and explore the possibilities together with the worker. Autonomy is an important factor in general, and a factor that must always be monitored when adjustments in work are considered. There is a lot of experience, but there are still gaps in knowledge and opportunities for more knowledge sharing.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1255
Number of pages17
JournalBMC Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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