Practical advice for younger women with a diagnoisis

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 and you may be concerned about your career. No matter whether you're working for an employer, self-employed or in education, here we look at how you can make the best practical decisions based on your individual 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 more in-depth information about your entitlements, contact Macmillan Cancer Support or Maggie's.

You don't have to tell your employer that you have cancer but it may help them to be supportive and flexible. Having cancer counts as a 'disability' under the Equalities Act 2010 (in England, Scotland and Wales), or the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (in Northern Ireland).

This means that your employer or college/university must not discriminate against you and must be prepared to make reasonable adjustments to help you take time off for treatment and medical appointments, as well as to continue with or ease back into work or education.

If you need to take time off while receiving treatment, you could speak to your line manager or a mentor to see if there's a way of keeping up-to-date when you feel up to it. You may opt to receive a regular professional magazine or journal for you to read when you're feeling well enough, or email updates on projects you have been working on.

Returning to work

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 sometimes. It may help to call into work ahead of your return or to speak to a colleague about how you want to be treated. Your colleagues will appreciate your honesty as they may not know what to say.

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 may have private sickness insurance. You may want to think about scaling back your business while you are unable to spend as much time on it as you would normally, and focusing on the essentials. Macmillan Cancer Support has excellent 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 Centres – You can get confidential advice about benefits you may be entitled to by contacting a Maggie's Benefits Adviser at your local Maggie's Centre.
  • Macmillan Cancer Support – A Macmillan Benefits Adviser can offer specialist advice including information on benefits, insurance, tax credits, grants and loans. Call 0808 808 00 00 (Monday to Friday, 9am–8pm).
  • Citizens Advice – Citizens Advice provides free independent and confidential advice online and in over 3500 locations in the UK.
  • Trade unions – If you belong to a trade union they may also be able to offer support and advice.

Benefits and ovarian cancer

The amount of financial help that you are entitled to will depend on the impact your cancer has had on you and your financial circumstances.

There are different types of benefit entitlements, including benefits that replace your earnings, help with housing costs or help with some of the extra costs resulting from your illness. Other financial help is available for people on a low income due to long term illness, including support with council tax and help with 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

If you live in England, NHS prescriptions are free for people with a cancer diagnosis. You can apply for an exemption certificate using a form from your GP or hospital. The certificate lasts for five years and can be renewed for as long as you need it. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, prescriptions are free. 


Travel insurance

Routine travel insurance policies may exclude any risks associated with your cancer or exclude you because you have cancer. However, 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. 

European Health Insurance Card

If you are travelling to Europe before 1 January 2021, you can get a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), available via the NHS, which allows you to receive medical cover on the same basis as a citizen of the country that you are visiting. Having one may be a condition of your insurance or reduce your premium.

If you're travelling to Europe after 1 January 2021, you'll still be able to receive free medical cover on the same basis as a citizen of the country that you're visiting if:

  • you are a UK state pensioner living in the EU before 31 December 2020
  • you are a UK student studying in the EU before 31 December 2020
  • you are a 'frontier worker' (someone who works in one state and lives in another) before 31 December 2020, for as long as you continue to be a frontier worker in the host state
  • you are an EU national living in the UK before 31 December 2020.

For more information visit NHS Choices or Cancer Research UK.

Private clinics abroad can be expensive, while a public facility needs to be clear that they are treating you on the same basis as a local citizen.

Life and illness insurance

Having cancer should not affect any existing life or critical illness insurance, but you may find it more difficult to obtain new insurance once you have been diagnosed with cancer. Insurance companies may quote you a very high premium so 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 by calling 0808 808 00 00. 


This information is reviewed regularly and is in line with accepted national and international guidelines. All of our publications undergo an expert peer review and are reviewed by women with ovarian cancer to ensure that we provide accurate and high-quality information. To find out more take a look at our information standards.