Advice for returning to work after cancer treatment


Depending on your personal situation, you may have taken time off from work during part or all of your cancer treatment. Once treatment has ended, returning to work can be an important step for you in the process of getting back to your normal life. While it can be extremely rewarding, there are some physical and emotional challenges that you may experience and can prepare for.

Social adjustments

Returning to work can be a great distraction to keep your mind off cancer treatment and helps some people by giving them a familiar routine and sense of normality. While being back at work and reconnecting with colleagues can be a happy experience for some people, the idea of seeing co-workers for the first time after treatment can be a stressful one for others. Cancer is a very personal experience, and people have different levels of comfort about sharing personal health information with colleagues. Before your first day back, you might like to think about how you will answer questions from concerned colleagues and how much you would like to share about your cancer.

Physical fatigue

There are many different types of cancer treatments and people are affected in different ways, so you might experience anything from feeling a bit tired to feeling totally exhausted when you return to work. Some people find that a gradual return to work helps them to deal with fatigue. You may like to consider working part-time and gradually increasing your hours to help you adjust to being back at work. Depending on the type of work you do, there might be modified responsibilities or reduced physical activities that could also help reduce the demands of your job.

Chemo brain

Chemo brain, or chemo fog, is the term used to describe used to describe thinking and memory problems which may occur during or after chemotherapy treatment. It affects many people and can continue for some time, in some cases up to a year after your chemotherapy treatment has finished. The good news is that there are many useful strategies to help you improve the symptoms of chemo brain. You can find more detailed advice about coping with chemo brain here.

Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all approach for transitioning back to normal life once your cancer treatment ends. We encourage you to speak with your healthcare team about your personal situation and what strategies may suit your needs.

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