09/04/2015 - 16:38

Breast cancer study gets down to work

09/04/2015 - 16:38


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WA researchers are looking at ways to help breast cancer sufferers get back on track.

Breast cancer study gets down to work
TRIAL: Arlene Chan is hoping to raise $25,000 in corporate sponsorship within two months for a 12-month clinical trial. Photo: Attila Csaszar

WA researchers are looking at ways to help breast cancer sufferers get back on track.

THE Breast Cancer Research Centre WA is leading a groundbreaking study into the challenges faced by women seeking to return to the workforce after treatment for breast cancer.

Fundraising for the clinical trial has been kick-started by a donation of almost $5,000 from construction firm Centrals.

Centrals matched funds raised by its employees for the cause, a campaign started by Murray Black, who shaved his head, eyebrows and goatee to support his sister, Leah Black, in her fight against breast cancer.

BCRC WA director breast cancer research centre Arlene Chan told Business News she was seeking $25,000 from corporate sponsors to carry out a ‘survivorship’ study of up to 250 WA women with breast cancer.

Professor Chan said anecdotal evidence had shown many women diagnosed with breast cancer struggled to return to full work duties, as well as coping with changes in their social and family relationships.

She said the survivorship study would identify physical and psychological issues that affected women’s ability to function at work, and aimed to provide companies with practical strategies they could use to support employees diagnosed with breast cancer to maintain productivity.

“What we want to try and achieve is something quite unique,” Professor Chan said.

“That is to follow not just physical symptoms women experience after their breast cancer diagnosis, but really focus on the aspects of their lives that are important to resuming a normal lifestyle.

“Those factors are things like their impact on their employment, whether it actually interferes with their ability to function at the level that they were prior to diagnosis; and then very much correlated with that is the impact of the diagnosis and treatment on relationships.”

Professor Chan believes that, over a 12-month period, up to 250 women of varying ages already known to BCRC WA, living both in Perth and regional areas, and with between one and five years from first diagnosis, could be incorporated into the trial.

“What we’re trying to achieve with this is firstly to try and get a sense of what the prevalence of these problems are, because women certainly contribute significantly to the business world,” she said.

“The next most important thing is to try and identify what are the major aspects and variables that impact on women’s decisions to resume work or what are the factors that make it impossible for them to resume work.

“Once we identify the variables that we think are most likely to impact on the employment status then we can go out to businesses and say ‘this is what we’ve identified, how do you see from your organisational strengths and conduct how could you help and support your employees to actually head off the possibility that they will leave’?”

Professor Chan said she was very optimistic the study would be able to identify issues employers could change to help their staff, and because each business was different she wanted to take a collaborative approach to setting up mitigation strategies.


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