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Wellbeing research

March 2016

Employment issues following a diagnosis of cancer

Researchers in the Netherlands conducted a study exploring employment issues in relation to people who have been diagnosed cancer.

The researchers conducted three focus groups with 22 people who had been diagnosed with cancer, including 10 people diagnosed with breast cancer. All participants had returned to work in the past three years and were working at least 12 hours each week. The researchers also conducted a focus group with occupational health professionals, who had experience helping people affected by cancer return to work.

In the focus groups, individuals who had been affected by cancer discussed the ongoing impact their cancer diagnosis and treatment had on their capabilities at work. They noted that difficulties such as ongoing fatigue, trouble with concentration and memory, as well as side effects from ongoing treatment such as hormone therapy ultimately had a negative impact on their abilities at work. 

Individuals also discussed issues relating to their work environment, noting that receiving support and understanding from their manager and colleagues was of great importance. They also indicated that not being supported by their supervisor, or feeling pressured about their attendance and the completion of tasks negatively affected their capabilities at work.

The researchers concluded that managers and occupational health professionals needed to take into account the ongoing impact a cancer diagnosis and treatment can have on people, even after treatment ends. Open discussions, flexibility and social support were also found to be important in helping individuals affected by cancer at work.

Source: Dorland, H. F., et al. (2016). ‘Factors influencing work functioning after cancer diagnosis: a focus group study with cancer survivors and occupational health professionals,’ Supportive Care in Cancer, 24, 261-266.

November 2015

Anxiety about follow up scans and quality of life among women affected by breast cancer

Researchers in Korea examined the impact of follow up scans on women’s emotional wellbeing and quality of life.

To be eligible, women had to have been diagnosed with early breast cancer at least one year prior to the study and had at least one ‘surveillance scan’ after finishing active treatment. The researchers examined women’s anxiety, discomfort they experienced, the need for the scan, and the impact of scans on women’s emotional wellbeing and quality of life.

A total of 891 women participated in the study. Women’s average age was 51.9 years and average time since diagnosis was 3.74 years.

The researchers found that:

  • 94.6% of women felt that follow up scans were necessary, although 45% thought there were too many follow up scans.
  • 65% said that anxiety about follow up scans interferes with their daily activities.
  • 57.2% of women reported that anxiety about follow up scans impacts their ability to concentrate and work.

The researchers concluded that, while follow up scans are important, health professionals should explore ways of helping women cope with anxiety and stress they may feel in the lead up to scans, including worry they may experience about a possible recurrence of breast cancer.

Source: J Cho, et al. ‘Scanxiety and quality of life among breast cancer survivors,’ Journal of Clinical Oncolology, vol. 33, 2015 (suppl; abstr e20569).

Relationship between pain, body image and depressive symptoms in women affected by lymphoedema

American researchers have conducted a study examining the relationship between body image and symptoms of depression and pain in women affected by lymphoedema.

A total of 54 women who had been affected by lymphoedema following breast cancer treatment participated in the study. The researchers examined women’s levels of pain relating to lymphoedema, their body image and beliefs about their body and whether they were experiencing symptoms of depression.

The researchers found that women with higher levels of pain relating to lymphoedema were more likely to experience symptoms of depression. When examining the role of body image dissatisfaction, the researchers noted that women who experienced pain related to lymphoedema were more likely to experience negative feelings about their body which may, in turn, lead to symptoms of depression. The researchers concluded that there appears to be a relationship between pain, body image and negative emotions. They suggests that health professionals discuss body image issues with women experiencing pain relating to lymphoedema as women’s dissatisfaction with body image may lead to women experiencing symptoms of depression.

Source: I Teo et al., ‘Examining pain, body image, and depressive symptoms in patients with lymphedema secondary to breast cancer,’ Psycho-Oncology: Journal of Psychological, Social and Behavioural Dimensions of Cancer, vol. 24, no. 11, 2015, pp. 1377-1383.

April 2015 

Associations between post-diagnosis physical activity changes, body weight changes, and psychosocial well-being in breast cancer survivors

American researchers have conducted a study exploring the impact of changes women make to their physical activity and body weight after being diagnosed with breast cancer on their psychological wellbeing.

The researchers analysed data in relation to 1,348 women, exploring participants’ physical health, breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, level of physical activity pre- and post-diagnosis, body weight pre- and post-diagnosis, emotional wellbeing, self-esteem, stress, physical self-worth, fatigue and health-related quality of life.

The researchers found that 41.7 per cent of women reported decreasing their physical activity after being diagnosed, while 40.2 per cent increased their physical activity. Women were more likely report having gained weight (43.2 per cent) or maintaining their weight (36.8 per cent) following their diagnosis.

The researchers found that maintaining or increasing physical activity helped reduce women’s fatigue, feelings of stress and depression. Women who maintained or increased their physical activity also had better overall health-related quality of life and emotional wellbeing, as well as reduced anxiety.

The researchers also found that women who gained weight had lower overall health related quality of life, higher levels of fatigue and lower overall physical wellbeing compared to participants who maintained their weight following their diagnosis.