Return to Work in Multi-ethnic Breast Cancer Survivors – A Qualitative Inquiry


Introduction: Return-to-work (RTW) can be a problematic occupational issue with detrimental impact onthe quality of life of previously-employed breast cancer survivors. This study explored barriers and facilitatorsencountered during the RTW process in the area of cancer survivorship. Materials and
Methods: Six focus groupswere conducted using a semi-structured interview guide on 40 informants (employed multiethnic survivors).Survivors were stratified into three groups for successfully RTW, and another three groups of survivors whowere unable to return to work. Each of the three groups was ethnically homogeneous. Thematic analysisusing a constant comparative approach was aided by in vivo software.
Results: Participants shared numerousbarriers and facilitators which directly or interactively affect RTW. Key barriers were physical-psychologicalafter-effects of treatment, fear of potential environment hazards, high physical job demand, intrusive negativethoughts and overprotective family. Key facilitators were social support, employer support, and regard forfinancial independence. Across ethnic groups, the main facilitators were financial-independence (for Chinese),and socialisation opportunity (for Malay). A key barrier was after-effects of treatment, expressed across all ethnicgroups.
Conclusions: Numerous barriers were identified in the non-RTW survivors. Health professionals andespecially occupational therapists should be consulted to assist the increasing survivors by providing occupationalrehabilitation to enhance RTW amongst employed survivors. Future research to identify prognostic factorscan guide clinical efforts to restore cancer survivors to their desired level/type of occupational functioning forproductivity and wellbeing.