What to consider when making a decision 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:


  • What type of treatment will you have? 
  • Are there other treatments that would still be effective but might make it easier to keep working? 
  • How often will you have treatment? 
  • Does your treatment schedule suit your work hours? If not, can it be changed? 
  • What are the potential side effects and how might they affect your job? 
  • Will the 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.


  • How much of your family’s total income is made up of your wage? 
  • 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? 
  • How will reducing your work hours or taking time off affect your standard of living? 
  • What additional expenses, such as medicines or travel for treatment, do you expect? 
  • How can you manage non-cancer-related debts or bills, such as mortgage and car repayments? 
  • Do you need professional advice to help you make decisions that affect your finances?


  • 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 transporting you to appointments, helping around the house or providing meals? 
  • Will working give you a sense of normality 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?


  • Do you enjoy your job? 
  • Are you pursuing specific career goals? 
  • Have you discussed your situation with your manager or human resources department? 
  • Is your manager supportive? Can your workplace offer some flexible working practices (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?

Click on the icon below to download a PDF booklet on cancer, work and you

This information was last reviewed in November 2019
View who reviewed this content
View our editorial policy

Support services

Coping with cancer?
Speak to a health professional or to someone who has been there, or find a support group or forum

Need legal and financial assistance?
Pro bono services, financial and legal assistance, and no interest loans

Cancer information

What is cancer?
How cancer starts and spreads

Dealing with the diagnosis
Common reactions to a cancer diagnosis and how to find hope

View our publications
Guides and fact sheets for people with cancer, their families and friends