Introduction To support return to work among cancer patients, a multidisciplinary rehabilitation program was developed which combined occupational counselling with a supervised physical exercise program during chemotherapy. Aim was to investigate return to work (RTW) rates of cancer patients and to evaluate changes in work-related, quality of life and physical outcomes.
Methods This was a longitudinal prospective intervention study using a one-group design. Patients with primary diagnosis of cancer from two medical centres were included if they were treated curatively with chemotherapy and on sick leave from paid work. The 12 week multidisciplinary rehabilitation program combined occupational counselling with a supervised physical exercise program. Patients completed questionnaires on RTW, importance of work, work ability (WAI), RTW self-efficacy, fatigue (MFI), and quality of life (EORTC QLQ C-30) at baseline and 6, 12 and 18 months follow-up. Before and after the exercise program 1-Repetition Maximum (RM) muscle strength and cardiorespiratory fitness (VO2 peak) were assessed.
Result 93 Patients were included. Six months after the start, 59% of the cancer patients returned to work, 86% at 12 months and 83% at 18 months. In addition, significant improvements (p<0.05) in importance of work, work ability, RTW self-efficacy, and quality of life were observed, whereas fatigue levels were significantly reduced. After completing the exercise program, 1-RM muscle strength was significantly increased but there was no improvement in VO2 peak.
Discussion Return to work rates of cancer patients were high after completion of the multidisciplinary rehabilitation program. A multidisciplinary rehabilitation program which combines occupational counselling with a supervised physical exercise program is likely to result in improved return to work rates, reduced fatigue and increased importance of work, work ability, and improved quality of life.
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