Ovarian cancer, work and education
Find out about your rights when deciding whether to continue work or education during and after treatment.
What are reasonable adjustments?
Below are common questions you may have about work or education and ovarian cancer.
- Should I stay in work during treatment?
Whether or not you work during your treatment is a personal decision. It’s likely you’ll need to take some time off to recover after surgery. You may or may not feel able to work through chemotherapy, depending on any side effects and their impact on you.
If you do choose to work, you don’t have to tell your employer that you’re being treated for ovarian cancer. 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.
Ask your Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) or oncologist about how your treatment might affect your working life. You can ask questions like:
How often will I need to have treatment?
How long will each treatment take?
How might this affect my ability to work?
It can be useful to add some extra recovery time into your work plan as it’s difficult to know in advance how treatment might affect your ability to work. You can always build up your working hours or workload if you’re feeling well.
Find our more about the financial help available to you, whether you decide to work or not.
- Should I stay in touch with work?
If you decide not to work during treatment, you can still keep in touch with your colleagues if you’d like to. Why not ask for regular updates on relevant work or projects? You could even ask if there are small projects that you could work on from home. You may also decide that you prefer not to hear from work when you’re trying to recover. Do what feels right for you.
It’s important that your employer is flexible as your needs will change from initial treatment to returning to work. Your experience will also have an emotional impact and you may find yourself reacting to things differently or feeling less sociable. If you feel that this is happening and affecting your work, it’s important to be open with your employer so that they can adjust things to help.
- Should I return 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.
It’s understandable to feel nervous about returning to work. 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.
Macmillan has more information about returning to work after treatment for cancer.
- What if I'm currently attending school, college or university?
If you’re currently in education, you’re also protected by the under the Equality Act 2010 (in England, Scotland and Wales) or the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (in Northern Ireland). Your teacher or tutor should work with you to make reasonable adjustments. This may be things like giving you extra time in exams or it may be applying for extenuating circumstances. This is when your school, college or university can put extra measures in place to support you (such as extending deadlines for projects or taking your situation into account when marking your work).
The Teenage Cancer Trust has more information about returning to education after cancer treatment.
- What if I'm self-employed?
If you’re self-employed or work for a small business or organisation, it may be up to you to handle the communications and set up a return that’s realistic for you. Approaching organisations such as Citizens Advice can help ensure that you're aware of any rights or support available to you.
The same practical issues as working for an organisation 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.
Are you self-employed?
Macmillan has lots of information about work and cancer:
Maggie's has more information about work and cancer.
Working With Cancer provides advice on how to return to work or find employment after treatment.
GOV.UK has more information on reasonable adjustments employers must make.
If you feel you are being treated unfairly in your workplace, these organisations can help:
Teenage Cancer Trust has information about returning to school, college or university after treatment.
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