An exploration into the occupational identity of women following breast cancer and treatment: A qualitative study

Abstract

Introduction: The number of women surviving after breast cancer is increasing, along with the length of time they are living with the after-effects of treatment. Although the treatment’s effects are known to impact occupational participation, little is known about how breast cancer could affect occupational identity. This study aims to illuminate the lived experience of women long-term after breast cancer treatment through an occupational perspective in order to explore how they perceive their occupational identity. Methods: A qualitative study with semi-structured interviews was conducted with six women, who had all received a diagnosis of breast cancer and treatment for longer than a year. Reflexive Thematic Analysis was used to analyse the data. Findings: Three intertwined themes describe the participants’ experience. (1) ‘Disruptions in daily life and Environmental support’, (2) ‘Be able to do’ and identity, and (3) ‘Doing what matters and is possible’. Findings revealed that the occupational identities of the participants were maintained. Cancer treatment effects appear to impact occupational competence that corresponded to participants’ occupational identities, suggesting difficulties in the order of occupational adaptation. Conclusion: Our findings contribute to understanding the challenges to occupational participation related to the occupational identity of women following breast cancer and treatment

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