Researchers reporting in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute interviewed some 800 Canadian women in eight hospitals. All of the participants were being treated for newly diagnosed breast cancer that hadn't spread to other organs.
The researchers focused on the 459 women who had paying jobs during the month before their breast cancer diagnosis. They were followed during the first year after their breast cancer diagnosis.
Most of the women missed work or had reduced hours with an average loss of 27 percent of their yearly pre-tax wages. Ten percent of the women lost 66 percent or more.
The women most affected by lost wages included those with lower education who received chemotherapy and had less of a social support network. They also tended to be self-employed or worked part-time.
"These findings should sensitize clinicians to the real extent to which wage losses resulting from breast cancer can substantially and negatively affect the financial situation of working women and their families," the researchers write.
By Kelley Colihan
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD