Communicating early and often about return to work with healthcare providers, employers and insurance providers will help ensure your concerns are addressed and ensure a smooth transition back to work.
Communicating factors that can impact your return to work (Step 1) your challenges in function (Step 2) with the respect to your job demands (Step 3) with your health care providers can give them a comprehensive understanding of your situation and concerns. It may be helpful to ask your healthcare provider on how your cancer and its treatment will affect your work abilities, to help decide whether you can stay or return to work, or the need to look at alternative work, or apply for disability or sick leave (if these are available), or stop working. For ideas on questions that need to be addressed, see communicating with healthcare workers. Discussing work-related abilities and concerns also provides an opportunity for healthcare providers to initiate and discuss interventions to improve work readiness (See step 4).
In many cases, employers and disability insurance providers rely on physicians to provide opinions on whether a survivor can presently work, whether they should stay on benefits (if available) when or if they can return to work, and any restrictions and limitations that will need to be accommodated. Oncologists are also often called upon by employers and disability insurers to give their opinion on a patient’s current work abilities because of their clinical experience with specific cancer treatments. This is especially the case when treatments have changed and there is no research yet to inform how it may impact work-related functions. Often when survivors finish treatment, insurance case managers will call them more often to assess readiness for return to work. For more information on how to better communicate with insurance providers, see the Cancer and Work section on Communicating with insurance providers.
There may be expectations and advantages to communicating with your workplace during your diagnosis, treatment, and during your planning for return to work. This open communication can give the employer time to arrange for support at the workplace to improve your success with returning and staying at work safely. For more information, see the Cancer and Work section on Communication with employers.