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Loss in working years after a breast cancer diagnosis

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journal contribution
posted on 2018-01-23, 10:28 authored by Anna Plym, Hannah Bower, Irma Fredriksson, Lars Holmberg, Paul C. Lambert, Mats Lambe
Background Breast cancer can negatively influence working life, but it is unclear how many working years women with breast cancer can expect to lose. Methods Women diagnosed with breast cancer between 1997 and 2012 were identified in the Breast Cancer Data Base Sweden (N=19,661), together with breast cancer-free comparison women (N=81,303). Using flexible parametric survival modelling, the loss in working years was calculated as the difference in the remaining years in the work force between women with and without breast cancer. Results Women aged 50 years at diagnosis with stage I disease lost on average 0.5 years (95% CI, 0.2–0.7) of their remaining working time; the corresponding estimates were 0.9 years (0.5– 1.2) in stage II, 2.5 years (1.9–3.1) in stage III, and 8.1 years (6.5–9.7) in stage IV. Women with in-situ breast cancer did not lose any working years. The strongest treatment determinant was axillary lymph node dissection. Conclusion We found a loss in working years not only in late, but also in early stage breast cancer. Although it is reassuring that some groups had no or only a modest work loss, the economic consequences for society are considerable given the large number of women annually diagnosed with breast cancer.


This work was supported by grants from the Swedish Medical Research Council (521-2012- 3047), the Swedish Cancer Society (14-0324) and the Swedish Breast Cancer Association (BRO). We also thank the Breast Cancer Quality Register steering groups in Stockholm, Uppsala-Örebro and the Northern region for providing data for this study.



British Journal of Cancer, 2018, 1–6

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British Journal of Cancer


Cancer Research UK, Nature Publishing Group





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