Many people with cancer can continue to work despite their illness. Sometimes work schedules may need to be readjusted during periods of active treatment, but there is often little reason to think that your ability to support yourself and your family will be drastically altered following a cancer diagnosis. If an important part of who you are as a person is your work, it will be essential for you to continue to be productive. Most employers are willing to accommodate valued employees. They realize it is in the company's best interest to retain an employee who has made a commitment to the company. Be honest with your employer if you will need to readjust job duties or schedules while undergoing treatment. However, you should expect that your employer will welcome your return following treatment.
Occasionally a company will not be as understanding as you might hope. This is due to the incorrect idea that people with cancer will not be as productive or will miss large blocks of time from work. Studies have shown this is not the case and that people with cancer are, in fact, more reliable employees than the general population. If you sense that your employer is misinformed about cancer and your ability to work, talk to your doctor or social worker. Often they will be willing to speak with your employer and provide accurate information about your illness and capabilities.
If you are unable to return to your job and need to look for a new one, the situation might become more difficult. Job application forms typically ask about a person's health history, and employers often fear that a person with a chronic illness will be using more health insurance coverage than a person without such an illness. However, it is illegal for companies to discriminate against you because of a cancer history. The federal Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination by any institution receiving government funds. This includes most schools, hospitals, and colleges. In addition, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act makes it illegal for companies to discriminate against you because of a history of cancer. Questions on applications or in interviews must be related to your ability to perform the job you are applying for. Also, be aware that you are required to have a pre-employment medical examination only if all other applicants undergo the same examination. If you need to find a new job and can no longer perform the kind of work you did before your diagnosis, you may be eligible for job retraining through the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973. There are people and agencies ready to help those experiencing employment difficulties because of cancer.