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Impact of Breast Cancer on Spousal Employment

Posted 2/19/2013

Posted in

  Wow, that is one awkward title to today's entry. For reasons that I don't understand, the system won't allow punctuation marks in the title, including the word "husbands'". Had to think creatively to come up with anything would work.

  This is a study from Virginia Commonwealth University about the impact of a wife's breast cancer diagnosis on the husband's employment. There are no surprising results, but I found it interesting that the topic was deemed worth of research.

  Of course husbands (and wives and sons and daughters) are very much impacted by a woman's breast cancer diagnosis. Especially in the first weeks, there is inevitably a high level of anxiety and distress, and there are usually many medical appointments that are best attended with a second person. We all remember how little we heard and remembered and understood in the beginning, so a second set of eyes and ears is helpful. Most spouses want to be involved and want to hear whatever is being said and planned. This means time away from work for both. As treatment continues, a schedule and routine evolves, and many husbands/spouses need less time away. Some couples choose to have the spouse be the accompanying person for every appointment and treatment, but others opt for friends and other family members to come to the "non urgent or super important" (meaning, usually, ongoing cycles of chemotherapy) appointments. And, as we know, most women are quite comfortable coming alone to daily radiation therapy.

  Here is the abstract and a link:

Time away from work: employed husbands of women treated for breast cancer

Cathy J. Bradley & Bassam Dahman



 We estimated the effect of cancer and its treatment on employment and weekly hours worked for

employed men whose wives were newly diagnosed with breast cancer.


We collected employment data on 373 married, insured, and employed men from 2007 to 2011. The outcomes

were employment, any decrease in weekly hours worked, and change in weekly hours worked from prediagnosis

to 2 and 9 months following treatment initiation relative to a non-cancer control group (N=451 for the 2-

month survey and N=328 for the 9-month survey) extracted from the Current Population Survey. We also

stratified the cancer sample by those undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatment at the time of the

interviews and repeated the analysis.


Men whose wives were newly diagnosed with cancer were more likely to decrease weekly hours worked (p<

0.05) 2 months following treatment initiation than men in the control group. However, the change in weekly hours

worked was not statistically significantly different from the change experienced by men in the control group. No

differences between the two groups were observed at the 9-month interview.


 Breast cancer treatment had a small, negative effect on work outcomes in employed husbands of affected



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