8 Things Breast Cancer Patients Can Do When Their Job Is Threatened

Breast cancer can affect every aspect of your life in a myriad of ways, especially your career. Staying on top of your work expectations while dealing with the side effects of treatment like chemotherapy can be incredibly difficult. While much depends on the work you do and the types of medical care you need, there are ways to make sure you are protecting your career while you undergo treatment and recovery.

Here are eight things you can do when you fear that breast cancer may be threatening your job.

8. Know Your Employee Rights and Benefits

Once you’ve received your diagnosis, look into your employee rights and benefits, which can be found in your employee handbook. Also, research your workplace rights in the Americans with Disabilities Act from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. These outline your rights to receive reasonable accommodation during your illness, from permission to work at home to increased breaks.

If you have a working knowledge of what you’re allowed, you’ll know what you’re entitled to if those rights ever be questioned.

7. Think Before Disclosing Your Condition

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If you need leave from work for cancer treatment, you can request it without disclosing your specific medical reason via the Family and Medical Leave Act. Going public with your diagnosis both at work and online — like on social media — can lead to unexpected consequences, which could potentially include poor performance reviews.

How much information you choose to disclose is a personal decision, though your employer may struggle to make the appropriate accommodations if they don’t know about your diagnosis.

6. Don’t Underestimate Yourself

Don’t assume right away that you won’t be able to work. Depending on what stage of cancer you’ve been diagnosed and the type of treatment you’re undergoing, you may be able to continue working through it.

There are, of course, financial and insurance benefits that come with working. But also, from a psychological and emotional standpoint, having steady employment can provide a sense of control and fulfillment to those going through treatment.

5. Get a Doctor’s Note

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In order to get reasonable accommodations at work — especially if you haven’t shared the extent of your diagnosis or you’re not showing the effects of treatment — get a doctor’s note. This allows you to get the necessary amount of breaks, time off your feet, or other accommodations you might require.

4. Talk with Your Boss

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If and when you choose to share your diagnosis, talk with your boss about your needs and any scheduling or treatment conflicts you foresee. Discuss what you plan to do as you undergo treatment and recovery. Be up front about what you’ll need, and provide any suggestions you have for making the process smoother.

3. Make Backup Plans

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You can’t always predict how your body will react to breast cancer treatment, so if you plan to continue working, make sure you have a backup plan in place. Treatment may leave you too ill or too exhausted to go into work.

Figure out how your responsibilities will be handled should you need extra time off. Maybe having a temp would be a suitable arrangement.

2. Use The Resources Available To You

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As you navigate company policies and legal protections, there are organizations and websites you can find that can help you plan how to balance your career with your diagnosis. The Cancer Legal Resource Center offers free information and resources regarding cancer-related legal issues for those dealing with cancer.

The Job Accommodation Network is a free service from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy that provides information on seeking work-related accommodations.

And the Survivorship A to Z website provides information for those diagnosed with cancer on dealing with employers and co-workers. For technical assistance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, you can call the toll-free ADA information line at 1-800-514-0301.

1. Get Legal Help

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In the instances where legal action needs to be taken, consult an attorney who can outline your rights and responsibilities. Often, the sooner you enlist legal aid, the better your chances of preventing workplace issues from taking place. If your company isn’t being as willing to accommodate your medically-related needs, your attorney can step in and offer assistance, in both big ways and small.

It’s impossible to determine ahead of time exactly how you’ll be able to handle working once your breast cancer treatment starts. Every person is different, so be willing to adjust to the circumstances. While you can’t predict the future, planning ahead will help make whatever transitioning you need as smooth as possible.

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The Breast Cancer Site is a place where supporters and survivors come together to help fight breast cancer. In addition to sharing personal stories of hope, shopping for the cause, and signing petitions, visitors can take just a moment each day to click on a pink button to provide free mammograms for women in need. Visit The Breast Cancer Site and click today - it's free!
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