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Public Health Rep. 1996 May-Jun;111(3):236-41.

The likelihood of returning to work after breast cancer.

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  • 1Division of Public Health Biology and Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of California at Berkeley 94720, USA.



This is an examination of factors associated with returning to work after the diagnosis of breast cancer.


Three months after being diagnosed with breast cancer, 296 employed women from the Detroit metropolitan area (52 black and 244 white women) were interviewed. These women were part of a larger cohort of 1,011 breast cancer patients ages 40 to 84 interviewed for the study "Health and Functioning in Women with Breast Cancer".


Although most employed women returned to work within three months of the diagnosis of breast cancer, black women were twice as likely as white women to be on medical leave three months after diagnosis (OR = 1.94; 95% CI 1.04 to 3.62). Being on leave was found to be associated with the need for assistance with transportation, limitations in upper-body strength, and employment in jobs requiring physical activity. After adjusting for these factors, the racial difference was reduced and no longer statistically significant (OR = 1.34; 95% CI 0.67, 2.70).


Breast cancer rehabilitation programs should not only address the patient's physical capacity but also the daily demands she is likely to face once she leaves the hospital and returns to work.

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