‘Beyond cancer’: a study protocol of a multimodal occupational rehabilitation programme to support breast cancer survivors to return work

Dianne Melinda Sheppard, Dorothy Frost, Michael Jefford, Moira O'Connor, Georgia Halkett

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11 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction With more women working and surviving breast cancer, issues concerning sustainable employment must be addressed. Support to transition back to work is a gap in survivorship care. This paper describes the feasibility trial protocol for a € Beyond Cancer', a multimodal occupational rehabilitation programme to support breast cancer survivors' return to work. Breast cancer survivors are hypothesised to show improved work status, work capacity and perceived support at work at 6 months postintervention relative to baseline and a historical usual care group. Methods and analysis The prospective feasibility design allows determination of change in primary (work status) as well as secondary outcome measures work capacity and perceived support at work. Participants: breast cancer survivors of working age, unable to work in their prediagnosis capacity for >3 months, their employers and a historical usual care group. Key intervention elements: an evidence-based biopsychosocial assessment and health coaching programme, employer education and support, and return to work (RTW) planning and monitoring. Health coaching empowers survivors to return to social function, including work. Employer education and support facilitates communication and improves workplace support. For employers, we predict change in confidence in effectively supporting employees' RTW. Multilevel regression modelling will provide indications of efficacy for primary and secondary outcomes, and thematic analysis will examine perceived efficacy and acceptability. Ethics and dissemination Ethics approval has been granted by Monash and Curtin University Human Research Ethics Committees (HREC: 13300, HRE2019-0280, respectively). The evaluation of this innovative programme will provide the foundation for an Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT) and national roll-out, thus improving the quality of life of those who have been directly affected by breast cancer across Australia. Results will be published in peer-reviewed journals, presented at relevant conferences and disseminated to survivorship-focused organisations. Trial registration number Registered trial with the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ANZCTR) (ACTRN12618001985279); Pre-results.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere032505
Number of pages10
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2019


  • breast cancer
  • protocol
  • return to work
  • survivorship
  • work readiness

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