Work and Cancer: How to Cope

Cancer survivors know how important a job can be to their psychological and financial well being. Here are some tips from the American Cancer Society (ACS) to improve the ability to continue working, as well as some ways to handle workplace discrimination during treatment.

Manage your time

Plan treatments late in the day and right before the weekend to allow time to recuperate.

Explore work options such as occasional telecommuting (working from home). That may eliminate a tiresome commute and provide a more comfortable work atmosphere.

Maximize work time with a simple work schedule. Daily chores and administrative duties may be tasks that can be divided among friends and co-workers.

Cope with stress

Managing work, personal/family life, and cancer treatment can be difficult but not impossible. Throughout this stressful time, don't become isolated. Investigate area cancer support groups to meet others facing the same challenges. Also, ask questions of your medical team. Communication is the way to a better outcome.

Recognize the symptoms of depression: suffering more than two weeks from feelings of guilt, alienation, excessive indecision, poor self-esteem, or hopelessness about the future. Seek counseling from a social worker or psychosocial professional who specializes in working with cancer patients.

Control side effects

Medical advances now allow survivors to control the more disabling side effects of chemotherapy likely to disrupt work. Nausea and serious infection are among the leading preventable reasons for missing work.

  • Infection. Workplace hygiene is vital to avoid serious infection. Try not to share a telephone, office equipment, or eating utensils. Disinfect phones and computer keyboards with rubbing alcohol after others use them. Avoid close contact with co-workers who have contagious illnesses such as colds and flu.

  • Nausea and vomiting. Changes in diet can minimize nausea. Eat several small meals a day, eat foods cold or at room temperature to avoid odors, and don't have liquids with meals. Significant nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy (or radiation) can be managed with medications.


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