Work Experiences of Breast Cancer Survivors in New Zealand

by Katy Atkinson

Institution: University of Otago
Year: 0
Keywords: Breast; Cancer; work; New Zealand; Gender
Record ID: 1313584
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10523/5056


Advances in breast cancer diagnosis, treatment and increased public awareness have contributed to increased survival rates over the last 10 years (Soeberg, Blakely, Sarfat, Tobias, Costilla, Carter & Atkinson, 2012). More breast cancer survivors (BCS) are returning to work after treatment and a body of research is developing in this area (Roelen, Koopmans, Schellart, & van der Beek, 2011). However, in countries like New Zealand where the incidence of private health insurance is low and sick leave allowances are relatively short, there are increasing numbers of people working during treatment (Heymann, Rho, Schmitt, & Earle, 2010). There is a paucity of data about the experiences of these individuals and how they negotiate, navigate, seek support and adapt to their working environment during treatment. The purpose of this research was to examine BCS work experiences during treatment using the model of Main, Nowels, Cavender, Etschmaier and Steiner (2005). This research used a qualitative methodology, drawing on an interpretive paradigm. Research diaries and semi-structured interviews were used to gather data. The participants comprised of four females and one male BCS involved in the Exercise Training Beyond Breast Cancer (EXPINKT™) clinic at the University of Otago in Dunedin. The interview data was transcribed verbatim and analysed inductively to allow themes to emerge. Findings highlighted that BCS all have unique experiences in terms of their treatment effects and work experiences and therefore it is impossible to produce one finite set of guidelines for employers to follow. Work was also discussed as a site of recovery, with it being a distraction and participants who worked discussed less of a decline in mental and cognitive health. Finally, the study found that male BCS may disclose their illness, if the individuals around them are positive and supportive.