Dealing With Cancer And Continuing to Work

Pursuing your career and dealing with work-related issues can be challenging during cancer treatment and recovery, but there are ways to get help and find the balance to your life.

Job-related worries can add to the financial and psychological stress of even the healthiest person, but when it comes to those diagnosed with cancer it can be a huge concern. 

Cancer and its treatment can often make it more difficult or even impossible for a person to continue working at the same pace as before their diagnosis — or, in some cases, to work at all, added to this are the concerns of whether or not they will manage to stay employed while they go through treatment.

How much being diagnosed with cancer will impact your ability to work depends on the type of cancer, its stage, and its treatment. Likewise, the kind of work you do, whether it’s physical labour, a desk job, or a combination of tasks, is also a factor.

Because even if you’re feeling OK, it can still be challenging to keep up with your job responsibilities while making time for doctor’s appointments, tests, and follow-ups, and ensuring you get enough rest to help in your recovery. So this may include scaling back and accepting that you may need to move more slowly for a while.

To help cancer patients deal with their work-related concerns, there are several things to consider.

Deciding when or if to tell

Because nobody wants to be known as that guy with cancer, determining when or even if you want to share your cancer diagnosis with your co-workers is a highly personal choice. 

By telling, you may find the support and friendship of co-workers helpful, while for others, particularly those who work in a highly competitive or inflexible environment, may find there are negatives attached to sharing their diagnosis.

This is particularly true when it comes to freelance, temporary, self-employed, or contract workers as there is the legitimate concern that by disclosing their cancer diagnosis it could jeopardise their future contracts or assignments.

Whilst many employers are supportive of their employees with cancer – primarily because they have been touched as a result that they’ve had friends and family members who have had it, there are circumstances in which discrimination does exist.

Another thing to think about is how well you’ll handle your co-workers’ reactions, while some people may surprise you with their caring and empathy; others may ask intrusive questions or make unhelpful comments. So it’s important to consider beforehand how you’ll answer and how much you’re willing to disclose.

Consider Your Options

As somebody diagnosed with cancer choosing whether you continue to work, whether you want to continue to work, and to what extent you need to work are also highly individual choices. 

For some people maintaining income and health insurance are of course big reasons for staying in the job. But for many, they carry on working because they feel well enough to do so, appreciate the routine of their job, and value the distraction from thinking about their health – maintaining any sense of normalcy is a positive thing, as it reminds people they can still do some of the things that are important to them. 

To help make it possible to stay in the job, you may be able to seek assistance to include shortened workdays or working weeks, extra breaks, later start times, working from home on some days, or temporarily swapping certain job responsibilities with your colleagues. 

Speak with your Treatment Team

Discussing your job and financial concerns with your clinical team is always a good starting point, as they can give you an idea of what to expect from the treatment and can advise you whether it’s safe and realistic for you to stay in the job.

If you’re seeking assistance with your job, ask your doctor to detail the specifics about the tasks you can perform, and if there are certain tasks you can or cannot do, and for how long you will need help as these details can help your employer or HR department figure out how best to assist you.

Ask for help

Returning to work after treatment or trying to continue working whilst being diagnosed with cancer is never going to be easy, so it’s important that if you have any issues you speak with your HR department or manager before deciding if you want to continue working – don’t ever be afraid to ask for help.

About Cancer Pro

Cancer Pro is the voice of the world’s cancer physicians and oncology professionals and is the trusted compassionate resource for people with cancer, their families and caregivers. For more information, please visit www.