Exploration of return-to-work interventions for breast cancer patients: a scoping review



Many women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer (BC) would like to return to work after undergoing cancer treatment. This review explores the nature of interventions addressing return to work (RTW) for this population.


A scoping review was conducted using the Arksey and O’Malley framework. A search was conducted in five bibliographic databases from 2005 to 2015 to identify intervention studies. Article selection and characterization were performed by two reviewers using systematic grids. Themes were identified to construct a narrative summary of the existing literature.


The literature search identified 17 articles published between 2005 and 2015. The interventions (n = 16) vary in terms of objectives, methodology, description of intervention activities, and period of deployment. Only one intervention referred to a theory linked to RTW. The results further show that nearly 44% of the interventions found provided only information on RTW (information booklet, individual meeting, group session). Only 38% of the interventions were work-directed and offered other activities, such as coordination of services and information, as well as instructions for drawing up an RTW plan. More than 80% of the interventions were provided by health care professionals. Interventions took place during the survivorship period (75%), at the hospital (44%), or an external rehabilitation center (38%).


The variability of interventions found indicates the need to clarify the concept of RTW after a BC diagnosis. Recommendations are made for the development of multicomponent interventions that include both the clinic and the workplace to meet the particular needs of this population.

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We wish to acknowledge the financial support from the Quebec Nursing Intervention Research Network (publication support fund).

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Correspondence to Karine Bilodeau.

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Bilodeau, K., Tremblay, D. & Durand, M. Exploration of return-to-work interventions for breast cancer patients: a scoping review. Support Care Cancer 25, 1993–2007 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00520-016-3526-2

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  • Intervention
  • Return to work
  • Breast cancer
  • Cancer survivors
  • Scoping review