Importance: Understanding the long-term participation restrictions after breast cancer (BC) is crucial for developing occupation-based interventions.
Objective: To (1) compare women’s participation during the BC subacute phase (2 yr postdiagnosis) with the chronic (5 yr postdiagnosis) phase, (2) explore factors associated with participation in the chronic phase, and (3) describe strategies women use to overcome participation restrictions.
Design: Descriptive longitudinal study.
Setting: A community health service in Israel.
Participants: A convenience sample of 30 women (M age = 53.9 yr, SD = 8.3) diagnosed with BC (Stages 1–3).
Outcomes and Measures: Demographic and BC–related symptom questionnaires; an adapted version of the Activity Card Sort, used to assess retained activity levels (RALs) compared with prediagnosis activity levels in sociocultural, physical, and instrumental domains; the Canadian Occupational Performance Measure; and one open-ended qualitative question, “How were you able to retain your participation in daily activities despite the long-term effects of BC?”
Results: Significantly higher total RALs were found in most domains for women in the chronic (M = 0.93 RAL, SD = 0.27) compared with the subacute (M = 0.71, SD = 0.22) phase, t(29) = 4.72, p < .001. Almost half the women achieved clinically significant change in their meaningful activities. Lower levels of participation were significantly correlated with higher symptom severity. The qualitative findings indicated that coping strategies, such as positive thinking and changing priorities, helped in managing women’s participation.
Conclusions and Relevance: Participation restrictions and residual BC-related symptoms 5 yr postdiagnosis demonstrated the need for a comprehensive evaluation and early occupational therapy intervention to prevent long-term restrictions.
What This Article Adds: This study highlights the value of a comprehensive assessment of daily participation (i.e., participation in various activity domains and in specific individual meaningful activities) of women with BC. The combination of quantitative and qualitative analysis provided a subjective perspective and deeper understanding of the associations among long-term symptoms, participation restrictions, and coping strategies.