Working during treatment

Returning to work can help bring about a sense of normality, and this in itself can help you feel better about things. And of course, earning regular wages again can help to relieve you from financial worries.

The chemo made me so tired. I just couldn't stay standing up for as long as I could before. But I was fine talking to clients on the phone.

By keeping a diary and making a note of how you feel at different times of the day, or directly after your treatment, you'll be able to spot any patterns and arrange to work at times when you're least likely to be tired, in pain or feeling low.

If you think you won't be able to work for a day or so after each treatment, ask your doctor whether you can have appointments on Fridays so you have the weekend to recover.

Balancing treatment and work

Your treatment may well affect your ability to work. When you're due for treatment, try to avoid doing anything too energetic for 24 hours before and after it. And if you have a low blood count or high temperature, don't overdo it. Try to give your body the rest and relaxation it needs to recover.

It's important to tell your boss and colleagues how your treatment could affect your work (you don't have to go into embarrassing details) and ask them to help you minimise the necessary disruption.

Most side effects will disappear after your treatment has finished, so you'll be able to work more normally as you regain your strength.

Different treatments can affect your ability to work in different ways:


Side effects from chemotherapy can include infections, nausea and diarrhoea. This may mean you need to take time off, while constipation and anaemia may mean you're not able to work as effectively as you used to.


Because radiotherapy usually takes place Monday to Friday for several weeks, you may have to ask if you can work reduced hours. In fact, you may need to stop working for a few weeks, and possibly for another few weeks after your treatment ends.

Hormone therapy

Although there can be side effects from hormone therapy, such as weight loss, weight gain, tiredness, hot flushes and reduced sex drive, they shouldn't normally affect your ability to work.


Surgery often causes tiredness, soreness and mobility problems, but other side effects depend on the kind of surgery you've had. For instance, after stomach surgery you may need to eat extra meals at odd times of the day, while bladder or bowel surgery could mean you need to use the toilet more than usual.

Updated January 2017, next review due December 2017.