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Cancer Diagnosis - What Next?

Updated on July 31, 2012

What a Cancer Diagnosis Means For Your Job

A cancer diagnosis is a major disruption of your life - both your personal life and your career. What do you need to do about your job if you've been diagnosed with cancer? And where can you turn for help?

What You Can Do?

What Are Your Options?

If you've been diagnosed with cancer or another serious or chronic illness, and are facing treatment like chemotherapy, radiation or surgery, what are your options when it comes to your job? For example, can your employer fire you? How will the disease affect your health insurance? Where can you go for answers?

While this is not a comprehensive list, you will find some tips here as well as places you can contact for further information.


To avoid misunderstandings, it's vitally important you inform your employer what is happening to you, especially if treatment will affect your job performance. Don't be afraid. Be honest with your boss. If you hide your illness, people may make assumptions about you based on what they perceive as odd or uncharacteristic behavior. If you feel you're being treated unfairly or discriminated against because of your illness, speak to your boss or go to the Human Resources department to learn what steps you need to take next.


All companies have their own time-off policies, which you can learn more about from the Human Resources department. For example, chemotherapy, radiation or recovery from surgery may quality as a long or short-term disability, which could allow you specific time off at full or reduced pay. Research the disability plan(s) your employer offers.


According to the Family and Medical Leave Act, employees can take up to 12 weeks off from work each year for medical or family emergencies (without pay). These weeks can be taken concurrently or intermittently, as you choose. Your job is safeguarded by law. In addition, if your condition qualifies as a disability according to the Americans with Disabilities Act, you may be entitled to further time off. If you aren't sure if you quality, or you don't know how to ask your employer for reasonable accommodations, the Job Accommodation Network (800-526-7234) run by the Department of Labor can help.


Worries about health insurance or your financial situation can worsen the stress you're already under. The American Cancer Society maintains a call center (800-227-2345) that offers help to people who have no insurance or who are about to lose it.


The National Cancer Institute offers a very informative website which lists lots of financial aid programs, education programs, patient assistance and advocacy programs.

National Cancer Institute


List of Assistance Programs

Greeting Cards for Cancer Patients & Supporters

Positive & Upbeat Encouragement with Messages from the Heart





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