Cancer treatments and work

Whichever kind of treatment you're having, it's important to let your boss and colleagues know about possible side effects and long-term effects. They'll need to know if you can't climb ladders, for example, or can only work sitting down.

"I had to keep dashing for the loo and leave customers waiting. So I worked in the stockroom instead until the side effects disappeared."

Side effects of your treatment

Talk to your doctor about the possible side effects of your treatment, and ask them:

  • Am I ready to go back to work?
  • Will my treatment affect my physical ability to do my job, for example, driving, climbing ladders, working shifts, travelling by plane?
  • Are there any adjustments I could ask my employer to arrange which would make work easier for me?
  • Will I need to work reduced hours/work more at home/work more flexible hours?
  • Will I need to eat/drink/wear anything different from normal (maybe looser, more comfortable clothing, increased fluid intake)?
  • Will I need to take occasional naps or rests during the working day?
  • Can I get counselling to help me return to work?

Talking about how you feel

Returning to work may be just what you want to do, but after any period off work it can be hard to adjust to being in the workplace again.

It may be helpful to talk about how you're feeling with a member of your cancer care team.

If you start to feel upset at work

Sometimes you may start to feel distressed or tearful at work for no particular reason. This could be because you're feeling tired, drained or overwhelmed due to the effects of treatment or returning to work.

Don't be embarrassed to tell your manager that you need to go home. Try and get a friend or relation to collect you if possible.

Future career paths

For some people, cancer means they can no longer do the job they always wanted. For example, if you've had a brain tumour, or an amputation, it can mean some careers are no longer suitable.

But don't assume that this is necessarily the case. No occupations should be ruled out without first investigating the support and workplace adjustments that can be put in place. 

If you think cancer could affect your career and are feeling anxious about it, talk to your CLIC Sargent care professional if you have one or contact one of these specialist organisations.

Updated January 2017, next review due December 2017.