Work after Surgery
This is another recurring topic, but it is one of interest to many women, at different points in their breast cancer experience. This particular study relates to the decision to return to work after surgery. Surely, that is a question for some women, but I suspect more women struggle with the decision after chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. Women who have mastectomies with immediate reconstruction will require weeks of recovery, but women with smaller surgeries heal more quickly. A week or so is usually enough tine off after a wide excision, and two or three weeks generally suffices after a mastectomy without reconstruction of with the expander/implant option. Reconstructions that involve a flap and moving tissue will require more time off.
The decision about returning to work is often not straight forward. There are obvious reasons to delay: fatigue or general unwellness or specific side effects from chemo. There can be strong reasons to go back: finances, regaining a sense of normal routine, trying to feel more part of the world and less like a cancer patient. It surely is possible to make a full time job out of cancer (especially if one includes various modalites like acupuncture or special diets), but most women try not to do so.
For example, I am working now with a lovely women who generally works full time at a very demanding job. She has taken short term disability to cover the months of chemotherapy, but is ambivalent about returning to work once radiation begins. She is being pressured by her bosses who miss her very much, and there is a lot about her job that she misses, too. However, she is tired and expects that radiation won't exactly boost her energy, and working part time does not seem like an option. Not so easy to decide....
Here the abstract from PsychoOncology:
Women's reflections and actions regarding working after breast cancer surgery - a focus group study
M. I. Nilsson1*, M. Olsson2, A. Wennman-Larsen1, L.-M. Petersson1 and K. Alexanderson1
Background: To better understand processes affecting return to work (RTW) after breast cancer, more knowledge from the perspective of sickness absentees is warranted. Still, research based on women's own reasoning and actions in RTW is very scarce. This study aims to elucidate how women with breast cancer re?ect and act on work-related issues.
Material and methods: Thematic analyses of data from four focus group interviews with 23 women who had had breast cancer surgery in the previous 3-13 months were carried out.
Results: The ?ve following themes of re?ections regarding RTW were identi?ed: 'health and functioning', 'self-esteem/integrity', 'value of work', 'relationships at work', and 'social circumstances'. These re?ections were associated with the three identi?ed themes of actions taken by the women: 'to work or to be sickness absent', 'to adjust work according to own needs or not', and 'to disclose or to hide one's cancer'. There was a distinct difference between women who experienced work as a source of well-being and those who needed a respite from work.
Conclusion: This study adds knowledge to the process of RTW after breast cancer and focuses on factors that lead the women to an active role in this process. We point to the interplay between women's own preferences, perceived competence, outer opportunities, and the actions each woman take with regard to RTW, which need to be recognized by all stakeholders involved. Furthermore, it continues to be essential to address the speci?c issue of disclosure in the workplace because this may be distressing for women.