Working through treatment for a recurrence or returning to work after treatment is a very personal decision. You don’t have to tell your employer that you’re being treated for ovarian cancer again. But if you’re going to lots of appointments and it’s having an impact on your energy, telling them could make it easier for them to understand your situation and support you.
Everyone living with or beyond cancer is protected under the Equality Act 2010 (in England, Scotland and Wales) or the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (in Northern Ireland) against unfair treatment in the workplace, both now and in the future.
It doesn’t matter if you have symptoms/side effects or not, the law still applies when you have finished treatment and have been discharged from hospital. It also protects you from discrimination by future employers.
Your employer is required by law to make reasonable adjustments to help you work through your treatment or return to work after treatment, as long as they know (or should reasonably know) that you have or have had cancer. This might include changing some of your duties, agreeing different working hours and allowing time off for appointments.
Read Macmillan’s guide Reasonable adjustments: making changes in the workplace [PDF].
Many people prefer to discuss issues with someone independent from their actual team or management. If your workplace has an Occupational Health or Human Resources department then these are the ideal people to discuss your situation with. They can then represent your needs to the relevant members of staff.
There are different types of benefit entitlements available to you depending on the impact your cancer has had and your financial circumstances. These include benefits that replace your earnings, help with housing costs or extra costs resulting from your illness.
Many people are unaware of the financial help and support that’s available to them during this time. For financial information and 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 after being 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.
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.
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 now apply for a free UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). This is available via the NHS and allows you to receive medical cover on the same basis as a citizen of the country that you're visiting. With this card you can access healthcare that's 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 the expiry date on the card. 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. To see if you should apply for a UK issued EHIC find out more on the NHS website.
These cards don’t cover treatment planned in advance but if you do 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.
Accessing practical support
Having to go through treatment again may feel like an impossible challenge to your wellbeing. If you have low energy levels or other symptoms or side effects consider asking others for practical help. This can include running errands, assisting with shopping or travelling to and from appointments with you. Many people will be happy to help in this way including friends, colleagues or neighbours.
You may find that your local council offers services that can help make your life easier, such as transport services to and from the hospital. Check with your local hospital information centre, CNS or GP to find out about local services.
For practical advice and to help find the right service for your needs you can call our support line and speak to one of our specialist nurses.
You can also join the Ovarian Cancer Community to speak to others affected by ovarian cancer and get practical advice tips.
Thinking about the future
Some people may want to put their 'house in order', which can mean writing a will if you didn’t do so before you had ovarian cancer. It can also mean thinking about what you want from medical treatment today and in the future (advance care planning). Although it can feel painful doing these sort of things, it's something we should all do whether we have cancer or not.
Macmillan has more information about advance care planning.
The charity Compassion in Dying run a free and simple website to help you plan ahead for future treatment and care. They also have an information line to support you with completing the forms and a Peer Navigator Service to help you plan, make decisions about complex treatment, speak to others about your wishes and access further support.
Last reviewed: February 2022
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