Whether surgical treatment for cancer which results in the removal of an external part of the body is viewed by employers as a medical disability that interferes with the performance of job-related functions, or fits a more stereotypic definition of a physical handicap that might even prevent an employee from being hired, has not been adequately studied. To identify factors which influence employers' decisions to hire women who have had breast cancer, a model of factors influencing the decision to hire was developed. A random sample of personnel directors from an industrialized North Carolina county was surveyed. A majority had personal experience with breast cancer patients and had had mastectomy employees leave work. Five factors were found to explain 69% of the variance in hiring practices: size of company, level of sick leave benefits, company involvement in employees' medical insurance, employers' education and personal experience with breast cancer. Knowledge level about the disease did not predict the hiring decision. Regardless of whether medical personnel made the final decision, the influence of non-medical factors was found to be quite strong in determining whether a former breast cancer patient was actually hired.

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