What is the value of occupational therapy in return to work for breast cancer patients? A qualitative inquiry among experts

H.A.M. Désiron*, P. Donceel, L. Godderis, E. van Hoof, A. de Rijk

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


An increasing number of patients are confronted with breast cancer (BC) and functional limitations after treatment. Occupational therapy (OT) is successful in return to work (RTW), but not yet available for BC patients. This paper explores experts' opinions on OT interventions for RTW in BC patients in the Belgian context. Primary data were topic-interviews with all heads of OT departments in Flemish University Hospitals (n = 5). Secondary data were four focus group interviews with care professionals in oncological rehabilitation (n = 41). All data were transcribed and thematic analysis was used. Integrated in multidisciplinary teamwork, OT interventions should have a holistic and client-centred approach, start early in the rehabilitation process, include workplace visits and contacts with relevant stakeholders, and use goal setting to start up tailor made rehabilitation, linking assessment of abilities and work. Occupational therapists are regarded as professionals who can effectively answer BC patients unmet needs regarding RTW due to their skill to bridge between care and workplace. According to the experts, OT interventions supporting RTW in BC patients are useful when integrated in regular healthcare. They agree on the components but organisational barriers should be removed, for example not providing reimbursement for including this type of support trough healthcare insurance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-280
Number of pages14
JournalEuropean Journal of Cancer Care
Issue number2
Early online date24 Jun 2014
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015


  • occupational therapy
  • breast cancer
  • return to work
  • expert opinion
  • qualitative research

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