Employment and Disability

Navigating Employment and Disability Issues


In addition to health insurance issues, most people affected by cancer have questions about employment and disability. We hope to help you navigate these issues, including:
  • The decision to work, or not work, through treatment
  • Talking with your employer
  • Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  • Social Security & Disability Insurance (SSDI)
  • Private Disability Insurance

Employment and Cancer


Working Through Treatment


If you or a loved one has cancer, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be a need to work less or leave the job, although some people do. There is not one “right” answer about working full-time, part-time or not at all during treatment. 

For some, treatment requires frequent or lengthy treatment visits or hospital stays which can get in the way of work. There may be days when there is a need to take time off for treatment or because of the effects of the cancer or the treatment. Your health care team may be able to offer advice on the likelihood of your treatment affecting your ability to work. Everyone is different, so consider what is best for you at each point in cancer treatment and make Patient Active decisions when possible. 

Things To Consider: 
  • Do I enjoy my work and/or find it a welcome distraction? 
  • What does my health care team recommend? 
  • Can I complete my work functions while on treatment? 
  • How would taking time away from work affect my income? 
  • How much sick leave do I have? 
  • If I take time away from work, will the Family and Medical Leave Act apply? 
  • Do I live in a state with a state-sponsored short-term disability insurance program? 
  • Do I have a disability insurance benefit through my employer? If so, how much will it pay? 
  • Do I have private disability insurance? If so, how much will it pay? 
  • Will I qualify for long-term Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)? If so, do I have savings to carry me through the 5-6 month waiting period? 
  • If I decide to stop work temporarily or permanently, how will this affect me and others? 
  • If I decide to stop work, what will I need to do to keep my health insurance?

Talking with your Employer


Many people diagnosed with cancer wonder if and how much they should tell their employer. You may be worried that you will be treated differently or that you will become a topic of office conversation if you talk about your cancer. 

Whether and how much you tell an employer is an individual decision. Generally speaking, people diagnosed with cancer find it easier if at least one person at work, usually someone in a supervisory capacity, knows about the cancer diagnosis and treatment. There are certainly people who complete cancer treatment without ever telling an employer or colleagues about their diagnosis or treatment. 

Cancer and Disability


An advantage to letting your boss know that you or your loved one is undergoing treatment for cancer is that down the road it may be less stressful if you need to rearrange your work schedule or miss work due to treatment or its side effects. As long as you can do your work there are laws to protect you from discrimination due to your cancer diagnosis. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) are discussed at length in the articles below.

Social Security Disability (SSDI) 

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