Work experiences of Australian cancer survivors with lymphoedema: A qualitative study
Our qualitative study addresses a significant gap in the scholarship on return-to-work after cancer by examining the impact of secondary lymphoedema on individuals in paid employment. We undertook an Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis of interviews with 14 cancer survivors (13 women) with secondary lymphoedema in Sydney, Australia. Our interviewees were engaged in paid employment during and after their lymphoedema diagnosis. In addition to difficulties with tasks involving manual or repetitive labour, interviewees highlighted the importance of work for maintaining their identity. They also outlined the critical role that significant others at work, such as supervisors and colleagues, play in maintaining that identity. At the same time, their need for privacy and control over to whom they disclosed their lymphoedema diagnosis emerged strongly from our interviews. Finally, we present the coping mechanisms that our interviewees utilised to manage their lymphoedema in the workplace, including covering the affected limb with long sleeves, changing the tasks they completed, or even changing employers. In addition to our contribution to the scholarship, we highlight implications for employers, future research, and policy makers.