Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation

, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp 42–51 | Cite as

Breast Cancer Survivors Report Similar Concerns Related to Return to Work in Developed and Developing Nations

  • Shi-Xiang Luo
  • Jun-E LiuEmail author
  • Andy S. K. Cheng
  • Shu-Qin Xiao
  • Ya-Li Su
  • Michael Feuerstein


Aim To determine whether breast cancer survivors (BCS) at work following the diagnosis and/or treatment of breast cancer, in a rapidly developing country such as China experience similar to return to work challenges as reported in nations with established return to work (RTW) policy and procedures for employees with cancer. Methods Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 16 BCS who returned to work following diagnosis and/or primary cancer treatment. An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis was used to investigate responses. Results Three recurring themes emerged: (1) challenges at work related to residual effects of diagnosis and/or primary treatment; (2) positive and negative responses from employers and/or supervisors; and (3) positive and negative responses from co-workers/colleagues. Although several participants experienced a high level of workplace support, there was a subgroup that did report challenges related to symptom burden, cognitive limitations, and both positive and negative responses by employers and co-workers were reported. Conclusions Findings indicate similar challenges in BCS who RTW during and/or following cancer treatment in both rapidly developing and developed nations. Results suggest that regardless of the existence of workplace policies and practices related to RTW for workers with a history of cancer, a subgroup of BCS experience similar challenges when returning to work. These findings highlight the international nature of RTW challenges and suggest the need for more global efforts to develop and evaluate workplace interventions to assist with these similarities.


Breast cancer Cancer survivors Return to work Phenomenological analysis Workplace support Symptom management 



This study was funded by National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 81573016) and the Importation and Development of High-Caliber Talents Project of Beijing Municipal Institutions (No. CIT& TCD 20140328).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflict of interest to declare.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in this study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shi-Xiang Luo
    • 1
  • Jun-E Liu
    • 1
    Email author
  • Andy S. K. Cheng
    • 2
  • Shu-Qin Xiao
    • 1
  • Ya-Li Su
    • 3
  • Michael Feuerstein
    • 4
  1. 1.School of NursingCapital Medical UniversityBeijingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Department of Rehabilitation SciencesThe Hong Kong Polytechnic UniversityHong KongChina
  3. 3.Breast Department of General SurgeryBeijing Tiantan Hospital Affiliated to Capital Medical UniversityBeijingPeople’s Republic of China
  4. 4.GaithersburgUSA

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