Investigating how cancer-related symptoms influence work outcomes among cancer survivors: a systematic review

Chia Jie Tan, Samantha Yin Ching Yip, Raymond Javan Chan, Lita Chew, Alexandre Chan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
11 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose: The purpose of this study is to investigate how different cancer-related symptoms influence work outcomes among cancer survivors. 

Methods: A literature search was performed in PubMed, EMBASE, CINAHL, PsycINFO, and Scopus to identify studies published between 1st January 1999 and 30th October 2020 that investigated the impact of specific cancer-related symptoms on work outcomes among cancer survivors who have completed primary antineoplastic treatment. Study findings were extracted and grouped by symptoms and work outcomes, allowing comparison of associations between these outcomes. 

Results: Seventy-three articles representing 68 studies were eligible for inclusion. From these studies, 27 cancer-related symptoms, 9 work outcomes, and 68 unique associations between specific symptoms and work outcomes were identified. Work status (return to work and employment rates) was most commonly studied, and symptom burden was mainly measured from the patient’s perspective. Higher symptom burden was generally associated with trends of poorer work outcomes. Significant associations were reported in most studies evaluating body image issues and work status, oral dysfunction and work status, fatigue and work ability, and depression and work ability.

Conclusion: Several cancer-related symptoms were consistently associated with inferior work outcomes among cancer survivors. Body image issues and oral dysfunction were shown to be associated with poorer employment rates, while fatigue and depression were linked to lower levels of work performance.

Implications for Cancer Survivors: Failure to return to work and decreased productivity post-cancer treatment can have negative consequences for cancer survivors and society at large. Findings from this review will guide the development of work rehabilitation programs for cancer survivors. 

Protocol registration: PROSPERO identifier CRD42020187754.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1065-1078
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Cancer Survivorship
Issue number5
Early online date23 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022


  • Absenteeism
  • Employment rate
  • Presenteeism
  • Return to work
  • Symptom burden
  • Work productivity


Dive into the research topics of 'Investigating how cancer-related symptoms influence work outcomes among cancer survivors: a systematic review'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this