Employment options

Working during treatment

Cancer treatment will most likely affect your job performance in some way. This does not mean that you will be unable to do your job, but it does mean that you will probably need some flexibility to make work easier.

You and your employer should discuss whether your current role needs to be modified or if flexible working arrangements will help to accommodate your treatment and side effects. See Coping with side effects from treatment and Returning to work for more information and tips.

Taking time off

Some people find working during treatment and recovery difficult and decide to take a break. They may make this decision straightaway or after returning to work and finding it physically and emotionally overwhelming. Discuss your leave options with your employer.

You can use paid leave entitlements or ask for unpaid time off. If you do decide to take time off, consider setting up a system for staying in touch with your employer so you know what is happening at work. If you decide to take extended leave, speak to your manager or human resources department. Let them know you would like to return to work when your health improves.

      − Jane


Some people give up work completely when they are diagnosed with cancer. This might be the right choice for you if you are already close to retirement or if the cancer is advanced.

It is natural to have mixed feelings about retirement. How you feel may depend on your age and your plans before the cancer diagnosis. Some people experience a sense of loss and others worry they’ll be bored. Most people take time to adjust to retirement, and making plans for dealing with the impact on your sense of self, finances and relationships can make the transition easier.

Some people find it helpful to get involved with volunteer work as part of their transition to retirement. You may find it helps to talk about these responses with your friends and family, a hospital social worker, spiritual leader or counsellor, or call Cancer Council 13 11 20.

This information was last reviewed in January 2017
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