The Effects of Prostate Cancer Surgery and Its Disturbing New Link to Business Risk


The Effects of Prostate Cancer Surgery and Its Disturbing New Link to Business Risk

Experiencing prostate cancer has a significant impact on a man’s personal, work and family life. The sobering fact is 1 man dies every 3 hours from prostate cancer in Australia.

“Prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed … and we have the highest incidence rates internationally.” – Professor David Smith, Australian Cancer Council.

Talking about health.

Talking openly about this modern male disease (and the radical surgery it often requires) is helping normalise everyday discussions about its management, as well as increasing awareness and reducing the stigma often surrounding its side effects.

Talking about money.

What’s not often discussed is the unusual consequences this health event can have upon a business owner, their business’s viability and their investors relying upon legal shareholder agreements to protect their capital invested, in those some businesses.

The rise of a new business risk.

Emerging data about the long-term effects of prostate cancer in the workplace has implications for Private Investors and Family Offices, who have capital invested in companies and partnerships. The unexamined side-effect of prostate cancer surgery is its growing risk to business.

Recent studies have identified two recurring patterns within a statistically significant number of men who have undergone radical prostate cancer surgery. The two recurring patterns are:

  • An unusual diminished capacity and motivation to continue to work; and
  • Men being forced into early retirement.

The types of business at heightened risk.

Businesses at heightened risk of the effects of prostate surgery are often:

  • Entrepreneurs – many of who start later and work longer in commercial life.
  • Partnerships – comprised of interdependent teams of knowledge workers of varying ages, often with an older experienced male acting in a key person role.
  • Investors – relying upon shareholders agreements and some form of insurance to protect invested capital.

At the recent Asia-Pacific Prostate Cancer conference in Melbourne, Canadian Professor Dr John Oliffe discussed the results of a five-year study of men returning to work after radical prostate surgery, “Many found they could not manage their old jobs and had to negotiate a change.”

Professor Oliffe went on to explain:

Given the way it affects work, men now confronting this disease are facing a perfect storm … not only is the cancer being diagnosed earlier but with retirement being pushed out, they are being expected to work longer.

Not surprisingly, the study found ‘men consistently defined themselves through the context of their work environment’, but when the cancer diagnoses were made, this identity and drive for work, was no longer front of mind. And for approximately 50% of study participants, this drive would cease altogether.

While this may be expected given the sensitivity of the diagnosis; for the self-employed professional, people working in interdependent partnerships, knowledge workers and their investors, this new information uncovers a growing and significant business risk.

Motivation injuries, like brain injuries, are difficult to see, but their effect upon an individual’s more complex decision making and motivational capacities, often only becomes obvious over time. – Drew Browne, Capital Protect.

A typical scenario.

When facing surgery, men typically took between two to four weeks off work thinking this would be the end of the matter:

  • All reported they didn’t anticipate the fatigue and the resulting lack of concentration that followed after the surgery.
  • This significantly reduced their situational awareness and forward planning ability. Interestingly, the extent of their cognitive and motivational decline only became apparent after their return to work, with many finding they needed to renegotiate work expectations or stop work altogether.

Not being able to perform on return, eroded confidence, made men anxious about being perceived as vulnerable, increased absenteeism and can hasten retirements. – Professor Oliffe.

The chances of returning to work after prostate surgery.

The study reported over 50% of the men who completed radical prostate surgery sustained a significant change in their work life:

  • 26% stopped work.
  • 14% decreased their work hours.
  • 13% suffered a reduction in income.
  • 9% had a change in roles and responsibilities.
  • 5% had a change in employers.
  • 3% increased their work hours.
  • 47% reported no changes.

Traditional concerns.

Traditionally, the concern of many men living with prostate cancer has been, ‘how the radical surgery would affect their confidence and sexual performance’.

Men who receive androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) are already known to be at higher risk of reduced treatment decision-making skills and impaired occupational motivation. Healthcare professionals, HR Managers and alike are now facing the scenario of having to discuss long-term treatments and return to work strategies with men who have begun to experience a post-surgery, reduction in cognitive capacity. The study showed on average, those men in paid employment stated they retired four to five years earlier than planned.

These conversations will need to balance the commercial realities of motivation injury and the risks these increasingly common health events present to investors placing capital and expertise into new and growing business, and how to best protect that capital.

 In my next article, I will discuss these evolving financial effects of prostate cancer surgery and how to manage this risk.

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