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:


Treatment

  • 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.

Financial

  • 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?

Personal

  • 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?

Workplace

  • 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
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