Should I return to work?
After cancer treatment has completed, you may find that you now have more time and energy to focus on other aspects of your life, such as your career. The decision about going back to work depends on many factors like your personal preference, physical condition, current age, as well as social and financial circumstances. There is no right or wrong answer; it is about finding what is best for yourself. Some choose to return to an existing job but others may choose to seek a new job or even consider retirement due to changes in capability or priorities.
Returning to an existing job
It is normal to feel nervous about returning after taking significant time off work while on cancer treatment. Some may find the transition to going back to work full time easy, but for many this may take time and adjustments, both mentally and physically.
A common concern is social interactions in the workplace, especially with regards to telling others about your prolonged absence. Planning ahead, being flexible and open communication are key in easing the transition back. Cancer treatments may also cause side effects, some of which take time to improve and may linger on for months or years after treatment has completed. Commonly encountered physical issues include tiredness , numbness in fingers and toes and difficulties in concentration and memory . Having a gradual return to work, small modifications to the environment or way you work, use of external aids and moderating expectations are some ways to help you cope.
Changing jobs or career switch
Having been through a major life-changing event such as cancer may cause you to have a new perspective and re-evaluate your priorities, values and goals in life. You may want to use this opportunity to have a new start or pursue something different. Or you may want to change to a job that is less stressful or more rewarding. Some points to think about when considering a career change include:
Some people may choose to retire early. Before choosing to give up work, you may need to re-evaluate your finances, needs and values towards work and reasons for not returning. Some of the things you should consider include:
What you need to look out for
Everyone copes with problems differently, but you may want to approach your healthcare team for advice if you experience any of the following:
What you can do
Other than financial income, returning to work provides many benefits, which includes giving you a sense of purpose and normalcy, encouraging social interaction, as well as developing your knowledge and skills.
Here are some tips to help you better cope with returning to work after a cancer diagnosis:
Plan with your medical team
Plan with your workplace or employer
Prepare to return
Interactions with colleagues
Coping with fatigue at work
Coping with concentration at work
Coping with stress at work
When to call your cancer care team
Please inform your doctor or nurse if you encounter issues or problems with returning to work after cancer treatment. If you are a patient with NCCS, you may also call
+65 6436 8417 or
+65 6436 8088 to book an appointment to speak to an NCCS medical social worker/ clinical psychologist.
Do note that you should not be refused employment due to your illness. If you think you are being treated unfairly, you may contact
Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) for advice.
General Information about cancer and employment/work
Career Guidance & Employment Placement Programs/Initiatives
Job Search/Networking Portals/Websites
here to download the PDF version of this article.
The above contents are made available as part of TEMASEK FOUNDATION-ACCESS (Accessible Cancer Care to Enable Support for Survivors) PROGRAMME, a holistic care programme to support cancer patients during their care and recovery journey.
The contents have been approved by the Cancer Education Information Service, National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS), for people with cancer and their families and caregivers. However, this information serves only as a guide and should not be used as a substitute for medical diagnosis, treatment or advice. For specific medical conditions, please seek expert medical advice from your healthcare team.
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