Work status and life changes in the first year after breast cancer diagnosis

Work. 2011;38(4):337-46. doi: 10.3233/WOR-2011-1137.


Objective: The aims of this study were to generate new knowledge about factors predicting return to work (RTW) among women treated for early-stage breast cancer, and about changes in life satisfaction, and coping, and to examine the association between these concepts and RTW.

Methods and participants: A cohort of 102 women aged 18-64 were assessed six weeks, six months, and ten months after surgery using data from questionnaires and medical files.

Results: Factors independently predicting no RTW at six months were: chemotherapy, > 30 days of sick leave during the previous 12 months, low satisfaction with activities of daily living, and not having been born in Sweden. No RTW at ten months was predicted by irradiation to breast/chest wall and regional nodes, and low satisfaction with vocational situation. Global life satisfaction was higher among the working women, both six months after surgery and ten months after surgery. The working women used more positive coping resources as compared to the sick-listed women, particularly sick-listed women treated with chemotherapy.

Conclusion: Factors associated with RTW appear to include not only treatment-related factors such as chemotherapy and irradiation, but also psychosocial factors such as life satisfaction and coping resources. With increased understanding of the complex factors related to RTW after a breast cancer diagnosis, it will be possible to identify and support survivors who are at risk of being marginalized from the labor market.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Employment*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Middle Aged
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Prospective Studies
  • Young Adult