Managing employment among pre-retirement aged cancer survivors

Elizabeth G. Hunter, Graham D. Rowles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Successfully maintaining (managing) paid employment can be a challenge as people negotiate the cancer care pathway and survivorship. Little research explores the influence of age on this situation. The purpose of this project was to explore the role of age in managing employment for survivors from age 45 to 64 years. Method: A qualitative descriptive design was conducted to explore the intersection of age and managing employment for cancer survivors. In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with 19 United States cancer survivors (lung, breast, colorectal). Interviews were conducted in person or by phone. Verbatim transcripts were analyzed using thematic analysis. Codes were grouped by categories, incorporated into separate topical files, and then aggregated into broader emergent themes. Findings: Survivors are not just “returning” to work after treatment. They are often managing work both during and after treatment. Age may have benefits but can also provide barriers to positive survivorship and employment experiences. Fulfilling the role of employee and maintaining a worker identity was a strong driver for many participants. Again, this was potentially both a support and a barrier. It was discovered that health care providers provided little support to facilitate employment. Conclusion: Age is a factor that is poorly understood but influences both health and personal aspects of the experience of managing paid employment during and after cancer treatment. Occupational therapy practitioners should acknowledge this important role in addressing cancer survivorship.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-191
Number of pages9
JournalBritish Journal of Occupational Therapy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank the cancer survivors who took the time and made the effort to participate in these interviews. The authors disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: Funding for this study was provided by a pilot grant from the office of the Vice President for Research at the University of Kentucky.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020.


  • Cancer
  • employment
  • occupational therapy
  • older adults
  • survivorship

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Occupational Therapy


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