Objective: Cancer patients can experience work-specific cognitive symptoms post return to work. The study aims to (1) describe the course of work-specific cognitive symptoms in the first 18 months post return to work and (2) examine the associations of work characteristics, fatigue and depressive symptoms with work-specific cognitive symptoms over time.
Methods: This study used data from the 18-month longitudinal "Work Life after Cancer" cohort. The Cognitive Symptom Checklist-Work Dutch Version (CSC-W DV) was used to measure work-specific cognitive symptoms. Linear mixed models were performed to examine the course of work-specific cognitive symptoms during 18-month follow-up; linear regression analyses with generalized estimating equations were used to examine associations over time.
Results: Working cancer patients examined with different cancer types were included (n = 378). Work-specific cognitive symptoms were stable over 18 months. At baseline, cancer patients reported more working memory symptoms (M = 32.0; CI, 30.0-34.0) compared with executive function symptoms (M = 19.3; CI, 17.6-20.9). Cancer patients holding a job with both manual and nonmanual tasks reported less work-specific cognitive symptoms (unstandardized regression coefficient b = -4.80; CI, -7.76 to -1.83) over time, compared with cancer patients with a nonmanual job. Over time, higher depressive symptoms were related to experiencing more overall work-specific cognitive symptoms (b = 1.27; CI, 1.00-1.55) and a higher fatigue score was related to more working memory symptoms (b = 0.13; CI, 0.04-0.23).
Conclusions: Job type should be considered when looking at work-specific cognitive symptoms over time in working cancer patients. To reduce work-specific cognitive symptoms, interventions targeted at fatigue and depressive symptoms might be promising.