Cancer-related cognitive problems at work: experiences of survivors and professionals

Kete M Klaver*, Saskia F A Duijts, Ellen G Engelhardt, Chantal A V Geusgens, Maureen J B Aarts, Rudolf W H M Ponds, Allard J van der Beek, Sanne B Schagen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


PURPOSE: Cancer-related cognitive problems (cancer-related cognitive problems) in working cancer survivors are found to affect work outcomes. We aimed to generate in-depth information regarding cancer-related cognitive problems in working cancer survivors, strategies used to cope with cancer-related cognitive problems at work, and needs of cancer survivors and professionals regarding cancer-related cognitive problems at work.

METHODS: Five focus groups were formed, amongst which three focus groups with cancer survivors (n = 8, n = 7, and n = 8) and two focus groups with professionals (n = 7, n = 8). Thematic analysis of the transcripts was performed to create concepts.

RESULTS: Both cancer survivors and professionals confirmed that cancer-related cognitive problems, which occurred in several domains of neurocognitive functioning, affect work functioning. Cancer survivors used several strategies (e.g., applying practical adjustments, re-organization of work, and accepting limitations) to cope with cancer-related cognitive problems at work, as did professionals in their attempt at supporting cancer survivors facing these problems. Various needs of cancer survivors (e.g., supportive care options, acknowledgment by others) and professionals (e.g., improvement of expertise, clarity about referral pathways) regarding cancer-related cognitive problems at work were mentioned.

CONCLUSIONS: Due to the growing number of working cancer survivors dealing with cancer-related cognitive problems, it is essential to sustain their employability. Therefore, cognitive rehabilitation interventions should be developed, taking functioning at work into account. Knowledge amongst professionals regarding cancer-related cognitive problems, as well as coordination of care for cancer-related cognitive problems, should be improved. Ensuring professional education regarding cancer-related cognitive problems, within both the healthcare and occupational setting, is of utmost importance.

IMPLICATIONS FOR CANCER SURVIVORS: Support for working cancer survivors who experience cancer-related cognitive problems might increase their employability in the longer term.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)168-178
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Cancer Survivorship-Research and Practice
Issue number2
Early online date25 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020


  • Focus group
  • Cancer
  • Work
  • Cognitive problems
  • Employability

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