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Cancer and work

Cancer can affect your work life in different ways, not just because of how well you may or may not feel. For example, some treatment appointments may be during your usual working hours.

Being able to work before, during or after treatment depends on:

  • how cancer impacts your day-to-day function
  • the type and stage of cancer
  • the treatment you have and any side effects
  • how you feel during and after treatment
  • the kind of work you do.

Discuss the demands of your job with your health care team. Talk through what your work day is like, including how you travel to work. Ask your doctor how much time off you’re likely to need, or if it’s possible to work through treatment, recovery and beyond. Also ask about any support available to you.

Whether you can work may depend on the support and flexibility of your employer. Most people who want to keep working after a cancer diagnosis are able to in some way. You may be able to adjust your work hours, miss a couple of days here and there, or work part-time. Some people decide to take a break, use leave or retire.

Each person’s situation is different – not everyone with the same type of cancer will have the same plan about work. It will depend on what is possible and most practical for you.

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This information is reviewed by

This information was last reviewed June 2023 by the following expert content reviewers: 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.

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