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Assisting patients in changing work and looking for work


There is no question that having cancer changes how survivors view their lives. This often includes thinking through how they work, if they want to work at the same job or in the same career, even if they want to work at all.

It can be difficult to change jobs for several reasons:

  • It might take too long to reach the individual’s current pay level in a new job.
  • Retraining for a different job might take a lot of time and money.
  • Many cancer survivors are older workers and may not want to invest in extensive retraining.
  • They might lose employee benefits and human-rights support if they left their previous workplace.

On the other hand survivors might want to return to their former jobs gradually while they:

  • Consider which parts of the job are more rewarding.
  • Explore other careers in their current workplace.
  • Explore jobs at other workplaces.
  • Take courses to prepare for a career change.

Some cancer survivors may be certain they want to change jobs or it may not be possible to return to a previous job because, when the survivor is ready to return, the job has changed or disappeared.

Cancer or side effects of treatment may make it difficult to do the previous job, or any job, without learning new skills or getting more education. Survivors who were not working when diagnosed with cancer may need to look for work or take training to prepare for a job search. Other survivors may consider retiring.

Healthcare providers play an integral role in helping survivors who feel reluctant to return to their former job or want to find a new job. Ways to help include:

  • assessing and addressing any medical, psychological, social or functional barriers to work
  • counselling survivors who are working through reluctance or barriers to work
  • referring survivors to vocational rehabilitation counselling or providing it
  • arranging work capacity assessments to inform survivors’ career choices
  • referring survivors to employment resources, such as job search, career planning services and job placement

This section offers ideas and resources to help the patients change jobs at the workplace, find a new job, explore a new career, or things to consider if they want to retire.