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Can I still go to work while I'm in treatment for breast cancer?

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Updated August 16, 2010

Question: Can I still go to work while I'm in treatment for breast cancer?
You have a breast cancer diagnosis and a treatment plan, your calendar is filling up quickly, and you feel like you've taken on a second job! Perhaps you're wondering if you can keep working while you're in treatment for breast cancer. Consider your health, your treatment plan, and your financial situation - then decide on whether or not to go to work while you're in treatment for breast cancer.
Answer:

How To Consider Balancing Work and Treatment

Before you start treatment, talk to your doctor about the kind of work you do. Describe your tasks and responsibilities as well as how much time you are normally at work. Ask your doctor or nurse practitioner about possible side effects you should expect with treatment, and how these can be managed. Be realistic about your present health, the stage of your cancer, and other commitments you may have away from the job. Remember that effects of treatment are cumulative, and that as you near the end of treatment, you may need a block of unbroken time in which to recover. With these factors in mind, consider your ability to keep working while in treatment for breast cancer.

Give A Little, Take A Little

Be sure you know your employer's sick leave policy and your workplace rights before you tell your boss about your diagnosis. Prepare a list of ways that you might compromise and still fulfill your obligations. Be clear that you want to keep working, but may need reasonable accommodation in order to work. Ask about:

Taking A Break From Work

Sometimes the side effects of treatment or the cancer itself will get the best of your energy and health. If that happens, you may decide not to work through treatment. Talk with your supervisor and the human resources department about taking a leave, or getting short-term disability insurance to tide you over for a while. Speak with your doctor about how you're feeling and ask if you would qualify for disability. If you settle on quitting work for now, look into Social Security Disability Insurance, so you will still be covered for medical expenses.

Working Through Breast Cancer Treatment

Many patients do work through breast cancer treatment. If you've confided in your co-workers, they can help support you on the job. On days that you need extra help, they might give you a ride or help with demanding tasks, while on other days when you're at home, they may be willing to bring work to you. If some of your co-workers are uncomfortable around you, just let them go. Pick your battles carefully and hoard your energy for important things.

Sources:

Will I be able to work while I am getting treatment? Working During Cancer Treatment. American Cancer Society. Accessed on August 16, 2010.

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