Cancer patients are being forced out of work, study finds

Cancer patients are being forced into unemployment because of the after effects of surgery and higher levels of depression, with people who have had mouth cancers among the worst affected, research has suggested.

A study of head and neck cancer patients in the journal Head & Neck has concluded that the rate of those employed fell by more than 40% five years after diagnosis, when only one in three managed to secure work.

Unemployed cancer survivors also had lower social wellbeing and higher depression scores. For those cancer sufferers out of work prior to diagnosis, their reasons for not returning to work included the knock-on effect of surgery as well as dangerous levels of alcohol consumption.

The British Dental Health Foundation (BDHF) has argued that mouth cancer survivors often face a diminished quality of life, with survivors reporting poor oral function, persistent eating problems and long-term depression.

More than half of respondents reported problems with eating, while on average one survivor in four who lived for five or more years still experienced speech problems.

The physical and mental health of cancer survivors is also a concern, with more than one-third recording low functionality after the five-year analysis.

According to BDHF chief executive Dr Nigel Carter, the Head & Neck study has highlighted the problems mouth cancer sufferers face on a daily basis.

“While all cancer patients require a great deal of care, those recovering from mouth cancer clearly suffer from the after effects of surgery, both physically and mentally. It can take a prolonged period of time to eat solid foods, learn to speak again, swallow without feeling discomfort and even to breathe properly. In some cases, mouth cancer patients will experience these for the rest of their lives,” he said.

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