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February 2015


Background: As detection and treatment of cancer has advanced, the number of working age women with breast cancer has increased. This study provides new information on the intersection of breast cancer treatment and job tasks and how, together, they impact employed and newly diagnosed women.

Methods: The sample comprised 493 employed women within two months of initiating treatment. Job satisfaction and demands were assessed by pre-diagnosis recall along with measures of mental and physical health and assessed again nine months after initiating treatment. Using seemingly unrelated regression, we tested the effect of job tasks and satisfaction on mental and physical health nine months post-treatment initiation, controlling for pre-diagnosis health status, patient characteristics, and job tasks.

Results: Physical job demands prior to diagnosis were not significantly associated with mental or physical health nine months after treatment initiation. Employment in cognitively demanding and less satisfying jobs was associated with decreases in mental health and increases in problems with work or daily activities nine months post-treatment initiation (p<0.05). Women who received five or more cycles of chemotherapy reported lower vitality, social functioning, and worse measures of physical health compared to those who did not receive chemotherapy (p<0.05).

Conclusions: Employment in cognitively demanding and unsatisfying jobs may impede mental health recovery, particularly in patients who receive longer chemotherapy regimens. Such information may be used by patients and clinicians in deciding when to undergo chemotherapy and whether job tasks can be restructured to hasten recovery.


Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Barnes, A. J., Robert, N. and Bradley, C. J. (2014), Job attributes, job satisfaction and the return to health after breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. Psycho-Oncology, 23: 158–164, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance With Wiley Terms and Conditions for self-archiving.

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VCU Healthcare Policy and Research Publications