Long-term impact on workplace status after radical prostatectomy

A recent Norwegian study has concluded that pre-surgical counseling of men electing treatment for prostate cancer by radical prostatectomy needs to include advice about risk for the possibility of post-surgical issues that may affect work status and their working life 3 years after their surgery.

Through the use of a prospective, questionnaire-based study, Dahl et al. set out to investigate the long-term influence of radical surgery as a treatment for localized prostate cancer on work-related issues.

They collected survey data from a total of 330 men, all of whom had been fully employed prior to their surgery. Here is a summary of their most important findings:

  • 25 percent of the patients had retired by the time they completed the survey.
  • Of the remaining patients (about 250)
    • 20 percent had a “reduced” work status.
    • 80 percent had a work status that was either unchanged or “increased”.
    • About a third considered that their treatment for prostate cancer had in some way influenced their working life for the worse.
  • “Reduced” work status was clearly associated with increasing age.
  • Negative influences on working life included “bother related to urinary leakage, fatigue, and … additional oncological therapy (pelvic radiotherapy and/or hormone treatment).”

It will come as no surprise to most readers of this blog that one of the risks associated with surgery can be a significant impact on one’s ability to contribute fully in the workplace, especially for those men who have significant urinary tract problems post-surgery or require time-consuming follow-up treatments of some type.

On the other hand, it would be interesting to know how many men had been clearly advised about this particular issue prior to their treatment. Like all of the other things that can go wrong during treatment or become problematic post-treatment, most of us would presumably like to be clearly informed about the risks before one has surgery so that one was fully aware of the possibilities (as opposed to just learning to deal with them afterwards, with no warning that there were such possibilities). To quote the recent article by Anne Katz, a patient counselor in Canada:

… I always end our discussion with these words: “In six months time, when you are fully recovered from whatever treatment you choose, I would rather you come to my door and tell me that I scared you with my frankness, and that none of what I said ‘could happen,’ did happen, than you come to my door and ask me why I didn’t tell you about something, because if I had, your decision would have been different.”

It would also be interesting to know whether workplace-related issues were more problematic post-surgery in a country like America, where dismissal of “underperforming” employees is relatively easy, as compared to European nations like Norway, in which it is a good deal harder to dismiss employees because of issues related to treatment for health issues.

One Response

  1. I think this is a very real issue that I didn’t anticipate before my surgery. I had an open prostatectomy in 2008 when I was 44 years old. In every way, my surgery went as well as possible — I was released from the hospital quickly, my side effects were minimal, and my PSA seems to have stabilized at a good level.

    But even though I was back in my law office 10 days after the surgery, it was a year before I was working as much and as well as I had been before the surgery. I don’t know whether that was fatigue, distraction, a hangover effect from the anesthesia, or something else, but it was a very real problem that no one warned me about.

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