264573 Navigating Cancer Treatment and Recovery among Low-Wage Workers: First Hand Experiences

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Jennifer Swanberg, PhD , College of Social Work, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY
Robin C. Vanderpool, DrPH, CHES , Department of Health Behavior, University of Kentucky College of Public Health, Lexington, KY
Nick Coomer, BA , College of Social Work, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY
Mary K. Webster, MPH , Department of Epidemiology, University of Kentucky College of Public Health, Lexington, KY
Background In Kentucky, almost 3,500 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012, 62% of which are likely to be less than 65. With advances in cancer screening and treatment, cancer is easier to detect in earlier stages, more patients are surviving, and more survivors continue working through and after treatment. Though research on breast cancer survivorship and employment is increasing, few studies have examined the experiences of breast cancer survivors employed in low-wage, hourly jobs. To address this gap our study examined the work-life experiences of Kentucky breast cancer survivors employed in low-wage jobs during breast cancer diagnosis.

Methods Women diagnosed with breast cancer in the last year and employed in a low-wage job were recruited to participate in in-depth interviews (N=40). Pre-surveys were administered obtaining demographics, cancer and employment history. Interviews were transcribed using Atlas-Ti, analyzed and coded by the research team. Themes and sub-themes were identified and analyzed.

Results Preliminary analyses indicate that women continued to work during treatment; however fatigue and pain increased difficultly in concentrating on job tasks. Access to paid leave made it easier to attend appointments. Without it, women requested schedule adjustments. Informal workplace support from supervisors and co-workers was instrumental to women staying employed during treatment and recovery. Conclusions Cancer and employment research is expanding, but a gap exists regarding low-wage earning breast cancer survivors. This study begins to address that gap by compiling qualitative data on the experiences of low-wage earning breast cancer survivors diagnosed while employed.

Learning Areas:
Chronic disease management and prevention
Occupational health and safety
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Learners will be able to describe the impact breast cancer diagnoses has on employees in a low-wage position and identify circumstances that positively or negatively impact a low-wage breast cancer survivor.

Keywords: Breast Cancer, Workplace Stressors

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: My research focuses on the interface between work and family, specifically examining the job and workplace characteristics that make it difficult for vulnerable working populations to meet their work, family and personal responsibilities. This qualitative study on the work-family circumstances for breast cancer survivors is in direct alignment with my research interests and my scholarship.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.

Back to: 2057.0: Women's health disparities