Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 25, Issue 11, pp 3495–3504 | Cite as

The impact of personal-, disease- and work-related factors on work ability of women with breast cancer living in the community: a cross-sectional survey study

  • Kin CheungEmail author
  • Siu Yin Shirley Ching
  • Amy Chan
  • Doris Cheung
  • Suk Yee Polly Cheung
Original Article



The aims of this study were to identify the work ability (WA) of breast cancer (BC) survivors during the course of their illness, and the relationships between personal-, disease-, and work-related factors, and their WA.


This is a cross-sectional survey study. One hundred fifty-one participants with the response rate of 88.9% were recruited from the community in 2014 and 2015.


BC survivors’ WA was at its highest before diagnosis, and then dropped to the lowest during treatment. Although their current WA had improved, it has not bounced back to that before diagnosis. The resignation rate was 35.8%. Factors positively associated with current WA included (a) age and year of diagnosis, (b) physical and psychological health and (c) WA before diagnosis or during treatment, working years, work control and mastery. However, compliance with appropriate healthy eating habits and believing in personal health controlled by chance were negatively associated with current WA. Furthermore, the participants would more likely to have higher current WA if they (a) were more optimistic with good stress management; (b) currently were not receiving treatment or other illnesses; (c) perceived less effects of their health problems, physical workloads or their cancer diagnoses on their work and (d) perceived continue to work in the next 2 years, with good ability to handle physical and mental work.


This study confirmed that most BC survivors continued to work after their diagnoses. The factors affecting their WA were multifactorial. It is important to enhance their positive thinking.


Breast cancer Work ability Course of the illness Workplace psychological intervention Work culture 



The study was funded by the School of Nursing, Hong Kong Polytechnic University (G-UA65). The authors are grateful to BC survivors for their participation in the study and the organizations allowing us to recruit BC survivors for the study.

Authors’ contribution

KC: Planned the study; participated in the data collection; performed data analysis and finalized the manuscript

SYSC: Planned the study; participated in the data collection; revised and proofread the manuscript

AC: Planned the study; participated in the data collection; revised and proofread the manuscript

DC: participated in the data collection; revised and proofread the manuscript

SYPC: Planned the study; recruited subjects; revised and proofread the manuscript

All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical approval (reference number: HSEARS20130909002-03) has been granted by The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and the access permission has been obtained from the corresponding organizations.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kin Cheung
    • 1
    Email author
  • Siu Yin Shirley Ching
    • 1
  • Amy Chan
    • 2
  • Doris Cheung
    • 2
  • Suk Yee Polly Cheung
    • 2
  1. 1.School of NursingThe Hong Kong Polytechnic UniversityKowloonChina
  2. 2.Hong Kong Breast Cancer FoundationNorth PointChina

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