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Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer

Practical Issues


Returning to Work

A study published in the journal Cancer in February 2016 found that 35 percent of patients with metastatic cancer work part-time or full-time. Working may provide income needed to pay for cancer treatments, as well as social interaction and support.

Side effects, such as fatigue and brain fog, can be important things to consider when returning to work. Some women have the option to gradually return to their job. If your employer supports it, returning to part-time work can allow you to ease back into the demands of your position while balancing the effects of your treatment.

Under the federal Employment Equity Act, your employer is required to make reasonable accommodations to help you perform your job.  These could include time off for medical appointments and extra breaks to help you cope with fatigue.

Occupational rehabilitation may be beneficial when preparing to return to work.  Through work simulation and exercises to address symptoms such as fatigue, drowsiness, memory loss, and cognitive impairment, occupational rehabilitation can help you gradually recover your fitness to work.  Check with the provider of your long-term disability benefits to see whether they will fund occupational rehabilitation and refer you to a program.

You may choose not to return to work, particularly if symptoms or side effects make work difficult, if your work schedule isn’t flexible enough to allow for medical appointments, or you are not emotionally ready to cope with the demands of the workplace.

If you do choose to return to work, you should not feel obligated to discuss your breast cancer with your co-workers. This is personal information that is yours to share or keep private as you choose.

Before making a decision to return to work, speak with your doctor and your employer to determine the best plan for you.

For detailed information and resources about returning to work visit cancerandwork.ca, a comprehensive website designed to help patients, survivors, employers and healthcare providers in Canada.  

Read our edition of Network News Fall 2016 for an informative article on "Returning to work after breast cancer treatment" by Patricia Stoop, an occupational therapist and metastatic breast cancer patient.

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