In rural North Carolina, 43.6 percent of female breast-cancer patients reported a loss of income linked to their diagnosis, compared to 35.4% of urban women. And 45.6% of of the rural residents sampled reported losing a job or having their hours reduced after being diagnosed, compared with 37.1% of urban women, Mathias reports.
Coauthor Jennifer Spencer of the University of North Carolina said part of the reason may be that treatment is often tiring and time-consuming, and often affects someone's ability to work. "Not everyone has a full-time job with benefits and sick time," Spencer told Mathias.
Epidemiologist Jay Kaufman of Montreal's McGill University wasn't surprised by the results. "These women in general face more precarious forms of labor, fewer employment options, less flexible working hours, greater barriers in access to care," said Kaufman, who wasn't part of the study.
The study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, has some limitations: it used data from a resource that only surveyed women from North Carolina, and only black or white women (no other ethnicities). However, Robin Yabroff of the American Cancer Society told Mathias that the study "adds to a growing body of literature that raises questions about the impact of employer benefits -- such as type of health insurance offered, paid and unpaid sick leave and workplace accommodations -- on patient well-being."