Return to work in low-income Latina and non-Latina white breast cancer survivors: A 3-year longitudinal study

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Previous research has found an 80% return-to-work rate in mid-income white breast cancer survivors, but little is known about the employment trajectory of low-income minorities or whites. We set out to compare the trajectories of low-income Latina and non-Latina white survivors and to identify correlates of employment status.


Participants were low-income women who had localized breast cancer, spoke English or Spanish, and were employed at the time of diagnosis. Interviews were conducted 6, 18, and 36 months after diagnosis. Multivariate logistic regression was used to identify independent correlates of employment status at 18 months.


Of 290 participants, 62% were Latina. Latinas were less likely than non-Latina whites to be working 6 months (27% vs 49%; P = .0002) and 18 months (45% vs 59%; P = .02) after diagnosis, but at 36 months there was no significant difference (53% vs 59%; P = .29). Latinas were more likely to be manual laborers than were non-Latina whites (P < .0001). Baseline job type and receipt of axillary node dissection were associated with employment status among Latinas but not non-Latina whites.


Neither low-income Latinas nor non-Latina whites approached the 80% rate of return to work seen in wealthier white populations. Latinas followed a protracted return-to-work trajectory compared to non-Latina whites, and differences in job type appear to have played an important role. Manual laborers may be disproportionately impacted by surgical procedures that limit physical activity. This can inform the development of rehabilitative interventions and may have important implications for the surgical and postsurgical management of patients. Cancer 2011;. © 2011 American Cancer Society.

Low-income Latinas follow a protracted return-to-work trajectory after a breast cancer diagnosis compared with low-income non-Latina whites, and differences in job type appear to play an important role. Overall, less than 60% of low-income Latinas and non-Latina whites return to work by 36 months postdiagnosis.

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