- Cancer Information
- Practical concerns
- Cancer, work and you
- For workers
- Making decisions about working
- Making decisions about working
Making decisions about working
After a cancer diagnosis, it can be difficult to decide if you want to continue working, adjust your working hours, take a break or retire. Avoid making a hasty decision. Talk to family or friends and seek professional financial advice before making a decision.
Some of the factors to consider include:
Cancer and treatment
- How does the cancer, treatment or medicines you need to take affect you? Ask your doctor for information on this.
- Have your physical or cognitive abilities (thinking, memory, concentration) changed?
- How often will you have treatment?
- Does your treatment schedule suit your work hours? If not, can it be changed?
- Where will you have treatment? If you have to travel a long way for treatment, ask if you can have all or some of your treatment closer to home, or if you can use telehealth for some appointments.
- What type of treatment will you have, what are the expected side effects, and how could they affect your ability to do your job?
- Are there other treatments that would still be effective but might make it easier for you to keep working?
- Will any side effects be temporary or long term?
- Does your health care team have any advice about how other patients manage treatment and work?
- Would it help to talk to someone who has had similar treatment to see how they managed? Call 13 11 20 to find out about Cancer Connect, a free telephone peer support service.
- Are there any aspects of your personal life that you also have to consider, such as children or other financial dependants?
- Do you have any other caring responsibilities, such as elderly parents or other relatives needing care?
- Can your family and friends provide practical and emotional support, such as taking you to appointments, helping around the house or cooking meals?
- Will working give you a sense of normality and purpose, or help take your mind off the cancer?
- Will the emotional impact of a cancer diagnosis make it hard for you to concentrate on work?
- How will the stage and expected outcome of the cancer affect you?
- Are you single or the only wage earner?
- How much does your wage contribute to your family’s total income?
- Do you have any leave that would allow you to take paid time off?
- Is taking unpaid leave an option?
- Do you have savings or insurance that you can access?
- Does your employer have any insurance that you can access?
- Are you able to gain access to your superannuation or does your fund have insurance you are eligible for? See Cancer and your finances and get financial advice before accessing your superannuation.
- How will reducing your hours or taking time off affect your standard of living?
- What extra expenses, such as medicines or travel for treatment, can you expect?
- How can you manage your usual debts or bills, such as mortgage and car repayments?
- Do you need professional advice to help make decisions about your finances?
- Do you enjoy your job?
- Are you following specific career goals? Will time off impact your career pathway?
- Have you talked to your manager or the company’s HR department about your situation?
- Is your manager supportive? Can your workplace offer some flexible ways of working, such as working from home?
- Is your job very demanding?
- Are you physically and emotionally able to work?
- Could your role be modified to make your job easier?
- Would your workmates be a source of support?
- How much do other staff members depend on you and the work you do?
- If you have made a workers compensation claim, will you be entitled to receive weekly compensation to cover the loss of income if you stop working?
Podcast for people affected by cancer
Brooke Russell, Principal Occupational Therapist, WA Cancer Occupational Therapy, WA; Bianca Alessi, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Dr Prunella Blinman, Medical Oncologist, Concord Cancer Centre, Concord Repatriation General Hospital, NSW; James Chirgwin, Physiotherapist, The Wesley Hospital, QLD; Danielle Curnoe, Consumer; Simon Gates, Barrister, Tasmanian Bar, TAS; Justin Hargreaves, Medical Oncology Nurse Practitioner, Bendigo Health Cancer Centre, VIC; Kaylene Jacques, Director, People and Communications, Cancer Council NSW; Alex Kelly, Senior People Attraction Advisor, Human Resources, Allianz Australia Insurance, NSW; Legal reviewer; Georgina Lohse, Social Worker, GV Health, VIC; Lesley McQuire, Consumer, Cancer Voices NSW.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.