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The Voice of People With Breast Cancer

your path to accessing financial resources


Work & School

The decision to disclose your cancer diagnosis to your employer or school is entirely up to you. Discrimination by an employer based on illness is illegal in Canada. However, if you think you will need to take time off or need some job/study flexibility, it is a good idea to speak to your employer or school.

Leave of Absence

It can be difficult to know when to leave work or a school term, or whether to leave at all. This can be particularly difficult if you have few symptoms. Speak to your oncologist about your diagnosis and your treatment plan.  The oncologist will not be able to tell you what to do – the oncologist can only give you information that may help you with your decision. You may wish to ask the following:

If you are receiving treatment:

  • When will treatment start?
  • How long does each treatment take (e.g. are you in chemo all day or taking a pill?)
  • How long will the full treatment regimen take (e.g. 6 weeks, 6 months)?
  • Are specific periods of recuperation needed during that time (e.g. after a surgery)?
  • What are the common side effects from treatment?  Could they impact your work/school?
  • Are there risks from your current workplace that you should consider (e.g. chemical exposure, physical labor, flu or virus exposure if you work with the elderly or young)
  • What do you need to prioritize to keep yourself well during treatment (e.g. sleep, exercise)?

If you are not receiving treatment:

  • How often do you need to come to clinic or be monitored?
  • What therapy do you need to participate in during this time (e.g. hydration, physiotherapy)?
  • How might your symptoms worsen?  What will it look like?  (e.g. increased fatigue)
  • What do you need to prioritize to maintain your quality of life and functioning?

Map out a plan before you speak to your employer, manager, or school with the dates you need to consider for treatment or symptom progression. Examine what you may already have available to you in accumulated sick days or credits. You may even want to use a few sick or vacation days to take some time to think about your options. Speak to your union representative as well if you feel you need to better understand the terms of your contract or the options available to you. Before you leave, make sure you have the contact information of who to speak to regarding benefits and paid leave options, if you have these available to you.



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