Leading the Way in Breast Cancer Return to Work Research

Our Research and Innovation Unit, led by Dorothy Frost, General Manager Research and Innovation, is proud to be working with partners at Monash and Curtin Universities to help women with breast cancer diagnoses recover and return to work – important work that has been highlighted in a publication from The Economist Intelligence Unit.

As noted in Breast cancer patients and survivors in the Asia-Pacific workforce, while Australia has one of the highest rates of breast cancer in the world, it also has one of the highest survival rates. Many of the one in eight Australian women who will be diagnosed with breast cancer by the age of 85 are of working age, and many want to continue to work, as it is “both an economic necessity and often psychologically beneficial.”

Of course, the journey of recovery and returning to work is unique to every individual. Dr Bogda Koczwara, medical oncologist and senior staff specialist at the Flinders Centre for Innovation in Cancer, Flinders University, says, “The key to progress is getting all stakeholders to support two principles: work is valuable and everybody is different.”

IPAR is piloting a return to good work program for breast cancer survivors. Funded by the National Breast Cancer Foundation, the pilot will test a three-pronged approach that assesses breast cancer patients, gives them health coaching and educates workplace representatives. A trained IPAR occupational rehabilitation consultant will liaise with the patient, employer, doctor and other providers and monitor progress.

The research aims to create a toolkit that can be tailored to each individual and, if successful, will be used for a national rollout. A key part of the project will involve measuring how this approach affects primary return to work outcomes along with more tangential outcomes, such as quality of life, values around health, work and employer, physical symptoms, psychological distress and empowerment.

We look forward to bringing our customers and the workplace rehabilitation industry more information around pilot outcomes when these become available later in the year.

We also welcome the opportunity to discuss how our Beyond Cancer Rehabilitation and Return to Work services can assist people diagnosed with cancer and their employers. Please contact Jo Broomhall for further information.