An interpretative phenomenological analysis of the meaning of work to women living with breast cancer

Sara MacLennan* (Corresponding Author), Thomas Cox, Sarah Murdoch, Virginia Eatough

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Objective: Work is an important aspect of everyday life. This remains true for those living with and beyond cancer. Less is known about how the meaning of work may change over the cancer journey, the needs of the individual in response to changes and how healthcare professionals and employing organisations can meet these needs. The aim of this study was to explore the lived experience of work after treatment for breast cancer in a group of professional working women within the UK.
Methods: This article presents an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) of the experiences of 15 professional women diagnosed with breast cancer.
Results: We discuss these women’s journey from (1) rethinking the meaning of work to (2) making decisions about work ability and advice on work to (3) transitioning back in to the workplace and the value of continued engagement with employer.
Discussion: The findings from this study demonstrate the complex interplay between living with cancer, treatment decisions and work. This study highlights two key areas for inclusion in practice: (1) support from Healthcare Professionals and judgements of functional ability and work ability and (2) the role of line managers in managing cancer and work.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)503-516
Number of pages14
JournalChronic Illness
Issue number3
Early online date21 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2022

Bibliographical note

OA via Sage OA Agreement
Funding info: NHS Grampian Endowments

The authors would like to thank our clinical colleagues for their support of this project.


  • Cancer
  • Supportive care
  • information needs
  • , interpretative phenomenological analysis
  • interpretative phenomenological analysis
  • supportive care
  • work


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