How Best to Return to Work After Cancer

How Best to Return to Work After Cancer


For cancer survivors, returning to work after treatment may be a way of regaining purpose and structure in their lives, as well as boosting confidence. However, this shouldn’t be done without some prior planning to ensure a successful re-adjustment.

Survivors may find they are at a disadvantage when it comes to their physical abilities – or perhaps being away from the workplace for so long has caused them to forget how to perform tasks.

It’s completely normal to feel out of your depth at work after cancer, but survivors should be assured that there are ways to manage the transition back to normality.

Returning to a Job

The Cancer Council Victoria reveals that before deciding to return to their job, survivors should consult with their doctor to determine whether they are fit for the workplace. Their employer may also like to see a medical certificate to verify this.

But as further preparation, it is a good idea to create a return-to-work plan. To do this, survivors contact their employer when they’re ready to return to work, and then through the advice of their doctor, a plan is formed that outlines how they will ease back into the job.

This will determine factors such as the date for the employee’s return, their abilities or limitations, or requirements for equipment that will make them feel more comfortable.

Compass oncology suggests some things to consider might include whether the employee will need to be standing for long periods of time, potential side effects their medication causes, or whether they will need to wear special apparel, especially if there is a uniform.

Additionally, it is advised that survivors take into account their individual circumstances when considering whether to work part-time at first, or take on full-time hours right away.

As a safety net if survivors are not able to carry out their previous role, their employer may suggest a rehabilitation scheme to train them for a different role within the job.

Discussing Cancer in the Workplace

According to the American Cancer Society, survivors may experience a range of reactions to their return, depending on how much colleagues already know about their cancer journey. Colleagues may be caring and sympathetic, or perhaps not know how to speak to survivors, or even show curiosity and ask questions that can be invasive.

No one should feel pressured to talk about their cancer experience, especially if they are not particularly close to some co-workers. To deal with this, the ACS recommends survivors plan ahead to determine what they will say to others, and how much they’ll say to them.

Getting a New Job

Cancer survivors may be inclined to change jobs after cancer if they feel their previous job is too burdensome or if they have purely had a change of mind. To assist in their decision about which path to take, they might like to see a career counsellor or talk it through with someone else.

When considering whether to tell a new employer about their medical history, the Cancer Council Victoria claims that a survivor is not obligated to do so if their condition does not impact their ability to carry out a job.

However, it is advised that they do inform their employer about it if their health and safety may be at risk, or if their condition prevents them from completing tasks properly. Further, they may need to notify their potential employer if they require specific arrangements related to their condition, such as an ergonomic chair.

Gemma Crotty is a volunteer blog writer for Solaris Cancer Centre from her home in Melbourne. Currently studying a Graduate Diploma in Communication at La Trobe University, she is considering a career in communications or journalism. Gemma has a strong humanities research background from her Bachelor of Liberal Arts in Sydney. She has a keen passion for writing and likes to find new ways to hone her skills and connect to others through her words.