Working During Cancer Treatment

The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: January 26, 2012


I have cervical cancer and will need weekly chemotherapy and daily radiation for six weeks. I am wondering if I should take time off from for the entire treatment course or try to work part time. Can you please give me some advice?


Tracy Lautenbach, MSW, LCSW, OSW-C, Oncology Social Worker at Penn Medicine, responds:

There are many people that continue to work during their treatment. It is really a personal decision and depends on the nature of your work. Many people find it helpful as it provides as a good distraction for them during their treatment. For others they want to take time off and just focus on their treatment. There really is no right answer, but helpful to know your options.

It really depends on how you are physically feeling and the demands of your job. In additional, it is important to have the conversation with your healthcare team on what to except in terms of the side effects of treatment and how you will tolerate them. It is helpful to look into your options at work and to see what is available. Some people use their accrued sick or vacation time if they want to take time off from work. Another option for if you work in a place that has 50 or more employees is the Family Medical Leave act, which protects your job for 12 weeks, either unpaid or paid if you have accrued sick or vacation time.

Some good resources about employment are: - cancer and careers - The American Cancer Society -Cancer Legal resource Center

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series. View the entire Focus on Gynecologic Cancers transcript.