Practical advice for younger women with a diagnosis

Here we cover information to help you make decisions about work, education and finances, as well as advice about benefits and insurance. 

Being diagnosed with ovarian cancer can have a big impact on your finances. You may be concerned about your career. Whether you're working for an employer, self-employed or in education, we look at how you can make practical decisions for your needs.

Work, education and finances

Being diagnosed with ovarian cancer can have a big impact on your finances. Your income may fall and your costs may go up. For the most up-to-date advice and in-depth information about your entitlements contact Macmillan Cancer Support or Maggie’s

One concern can be the impact having ovarian cancer might have on your job and your career. You don't have to tell your employer that you have cancer. But telling them may help them to be supportive and flexible. It may also help to safeguard your employment rights.  

Taking time off work or education 

Having cancer counts as a 'disability' under the Equalities Act 2010 in England, Scotland and Wales. In Northern Ireland this counts under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. This protection is for life. It means that your employer, college or university must not discriminate against you. They must be prepared to make reasonable adjustments to help you take time off for treatment and medical appointments. They should also be prepared to make changes to help you continue with, or ease back into, work or education. Macmillan Cancer Support has information to help you talk to your employer about making reasonable adjustments.

Returning to work or education

If you've taken time off while receiving treatment you can create a return-to-work plan with your employer to ease yourself back in. This might simply be a matter of slowly building up to your normal hours or perhaps working from home. 

It’s understandable to feel nervous about returning to work or education. You may feel you don’t want to be fussed over and want to just get back to work. It may help to call into work ahead of your return or to speak to a colleague about how you want to be treated. Similarly, if you’re going back to education talking to teachers and friends to let them know how they can help when you return may be useful. Teenage Cancer Trust provide advice for young people going back to education after a diagnosis of cancer

If you're self-employed

If you're self-employed, the same practical issues may apply to how much work you feel able to do. You won't have the security of employer sick pay schemes, but you may have private sickness insurance. You may want to think about scaling back your business while you're unable to spend as much time on it as you normally would. Focus on the essentials instead. If you work alongside other people, you could discuss whether there is an option for others to take on the most important elements of your workload.  

Macmillan Cancer Support has information for people diagnosed with cancer who are self-employed

Your pension

A cancer diagnosis may have some impact on your pension. It's a good idea to check with your current pension scheme to see if your diagnosis causes anything to change. 

Further help with practical and financial support:

  • Maggie's can give you confidential advice about benefits you may be entitled to. Contact a Maggie's benefits adviser at your local Maggie's Centre or online.
  • Macmillan benefits adviser can offer specialist advice on benefits, insurance, tax credits, grants and loans. Call 0808 808 00 00 (Monday to Friday, 9am–8pm).
  • Citizens Advice provides free independent and confidential advice online and in over 3500 locations in the UK.
  • If you belong to a trade union they may also be able to offer support and advice.

Benefits and ovarian cancer

A cancer diagnosis can have a big impact on your finances and you may be able to claim benefits. There are different types of benefit entitlements. These include replacing your earnings you would have been getting from work, help with housing costs or help with some of the extra costs resulting from the illness. Other financial help is available for people on a low income due to long-term illness. You can also get support with council tax and health costs such as travel to hospital.

Navigating the benefits system can feel like a bit of a maze, so you may wish to seek advice from a benefits adviser at Macmillan Cancer Support, Maggie's or Citizens Advice


Life and illness insurance

Having cancer shouldn’t affect any existing life or critical illness insurance. But you may find it more difficult to get new insurance once you have been diagnosed with cancer. Your current policy may include a benefit for cancer, so it's worth checking with your insurer. 

Insurance companies may quote you a very high premium. It can help to talk to an insurance broker who can advise you on more specialist policies. 

For further advice about cancer insurance plans, you can speak to Macmillan Cancer Support's financial guides team.

Travel insurance

Routine travel insurance policies may exclude any risks linked with the cancer. Or they may exclude you because you have cancer. But there are more specialist policies available. It's important to check that your insurance policy covers claims related to pre-existing conditions such as cancer.

Global Health Insurance Card

On 31 December 2020, the UK left the European Union (EU). If you're travelling to a country in the EU you can apply for a free UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). This is available via the NHS. A GHIC allows you to get medical cover on the same basis as a citizen of the country that you're visiting. With this card you can access healthcare that is medically necessary (it can’t wait until you come back to the UK). Whether treatment is necessary is decided by the healthcare provider in the country you're visiting. 

If you still have a valid UK European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) you can continue to use this when travelling to EU countries until it expires. Once this has expired, you’ll need to apply for a new GHIC card. You can apply for this up to six months before your EHIC expires. Find out if you should apply for a UK issued EHIC on the NHS website

These cards don’t cover treatment planned in advance. But if you need continued treatment for an ongoing illness while you're abroad (like regular injections) they do cover this.

Cancer Research UK has more information about EHIC and GHIC.

Free prescriptions

If you have a diagnosis of ovarian cancer and live in England, you can apply for free prescriptions using a form from your GP or hospital. This is called an exemption certificate. If you live in Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland then prescriptions are free.

Cancer Research UK has more information about applying for free prescriptions

Last reviewed: January 2022

To learn more about our review process, take a look at our information standards.