CONTEXT: Rectal cancer and its treatment impair survivors' productivity.
OBJECTIVE: To assess determinants of market and nonmarket employment, job search, volunteering, and homemaking among survivors five years or longer after diagnosis.
DESIGN: We mailed questionnaires to 1063 survivors who were members of Kaiser Permanente (Northern California, Northwest) during 2010 and 2011.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Productive activities, functional health status, and bowel management at the time of the survey.
RESULTS: Response rate was 60.5% (577/953). Higher comorbidity burdens were associated with lower productivity for men and women rectal cancer survivors. Productive survivors were younger and had lower disease stage and age at diagnosis, higher household income and educational attainment, and fewer comorbidity burdens and workplace adjustments than did nonproductive survivors (p < 0.05 each; 2-sided). Productive rectal cancer survivors were evenly split by sex.
CONCLUSION: Staying productive is associated with better mental health for rectal cancer survivors. Rectal cancer survivors with multiple chronic conditions, higher disease stage, lower productive activities, and older age need better access to medical care and closer monitoring of the quality of their care, including self-care. To capture the full extent of the involvement of survivors in all types of productive activities, research should routinely include measures of employment, searching for employment, homemaking, and volunteering. Counting market and nonmarket productive activities is innovative and recognizes the continuum of contributions survivors make to families and society. Health care systems should routinely monitor rectal cancer survivors' medical care access, comorbidities, health-related quality of life, and productive activities.
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