While many women felt positive about returning to work, some reported that they had re-evaluated their lives after their diagnosis and felt that work no longer held the same importance it used to. The work aspirations of some women were also reduced.
Coping with cancer or the side effects of treatment, such as fatigue and sickness, often had an impact on the women's health. Loss of confidence and emotional issues also proved problematic for some women.
Women reported that employers' expectations of their work capacity varied, and while some studies found examples of supportive employers and colleagues, this was not always the case. Women in Europe appeared to have a more supportive work environment than those in the USA and Canada.
Some women took up different positions or were able to reduce their working hours so that they could receive treatment and recover from the side effects. However, in some cases, work modifications were refused and employers were openly hostile, insisting that they should resign from their jobs or retire.
A number of employers judged women by their physical appearance, not realising that up to a quarter of women experience residual fatigue for many months after treatment. Colleagues were also misled by women's physical appearance and this could to lead to lack of sympathy and work-related support.
Dr Banning has come up with a number of recommendations as a result of her review:
Employers need to be better educated to avoid the culture of ignorance that exists within some organisations when it comes to the capabilities of women affected by breast cancer.
There is room for improvement in the way that healthcare professionals and employers manage the return to work process.
Occupational health departments need to ensure that
|Contact: Annette Whibley|