Advice about work-related issues to peers and employers from head and neck cancer survivors

Carolyn S Dewa, Lucy Trojanowski, Sietske J. Tamminga, Jolie Ringash, Maurene McQuestion, Jeffrey S Hoch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Purpose The purpose of this exploratory and descriptive study is to contribute to the sparse return-towork literature on head and neck cancer (HNC) survivors. Interview participants were asked to reflect upon their work-related experience with cancer by answering two specific questions: (1) What advice would you give someone who has been newly diagnosed with head and neck cancer? (2) What advice would you give to employers of these people? Methods Data were gathered through 10 individual semi-structured in-depth interviews with HNC clinic patients at a regional cancer center's head and neck clinic in Ontario, Canada. A constant comparative method of theme development was used. Codes identified in and derived from the data were discussed by research team members until consensus was reached. Codes with similar characteristics were grouped together and used to develop overarching themes. Results Work-related advice for peers focused on personal self-care and interactions within workplaces. Work-related advice to employers focused on demonstrating basic human values as well as the importance of communication. Discussion The study results suggest HNC clinic patients should be proactive with employers and help to set reasonable expectations and provide a realistic plan for work to be successfully completed. HNC clinic patients should develop communication skills to effectively disclose their cancer and treatment to employers. Conclusions In this exploratory study, HNC clinic patients' advice was solution-focused underscoring the importance of self-care and pro-active communication and planning with employers. Employers were advised to demonstrate core human values throughout all phases of the work disability episode beginning at diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0152944
JournalPLoS One
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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