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Returning To Work Or Study

Returning To Work Or Study

Returning to work

Deciding to return to work will depend on your health, financial situation and personal priorities. In addition to income, work can provide satisfaction and an opportunity to mix with other people. You are the best judge of when you will be ready to return to work. Members of your healthcare team can also give you guidance on this.  

Most women agree it’s very helpful to go back to work for short periods and then increase their hours and/or days, as they feel better.  If you have to return to work, this may cause some anxiety and fear. Whether you are returning to an old job, or starting a new one, you may face challenges with your colleagues. 

How much should I tell my employer and colleagues?

While you are not obligated to tell your employer that you are receiving treatment for, or recovering from, ovarian cancer, it can make working life easier for everyone if you are able to be open about this. You may ask for your condition to remain confidential. Your employer must respect your right to privacy.  

If you do decide to tell co-workers about your cancer, you can discuss it with them personally, or ask a member of your human resources team, manager or a co-worker to talk to staff on your behalf. Just like your friends and family, co-workers can be unsure of what to say or feel awkward about how to approach you.  

Practicalities of returning to work

Talk to your employer and healthcare team about a realistic plan for the pace of your return to work and times when you will need to be absent. Give-and-take on both sides will make your return to work easier. Your employer needs to be flexible, because your needs may change as treatment progresses. Try to give your employer as much notice as you can when you need to take time off. Some organisations have employee assistance programs where you can receive free and confidential counselling if you are experiencing difficulties in the transition back to work. 

More information

  • The Cancer Council’s Cancer, work and you is an excellent resource and covers returning to work in detail, visit www.cancer.org.au or call 13 11 20 for a free copy  

  • Work After Cancer, is a resource to support work during and after cancer diagnosis 

  • For advice about workplace discrimination, you should talk to a social worker, solicitor, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, Department of Social Security or a local community health or welfare centre.

Returning to study

Some women may be returning to study after treatment finishes. Taking time out of study during your treatment can be very upsetting. Like returning to work, returning to study carries its own set of changes. Side effects from treatment, such as fatigue and chemo brain, can make travelling to class and concentrating in classes very difficult. You may have to go back to study part time, which means you will finish your course later. This can cause difficulties.  

It can help to let your teachers know about your cancer and its treatment. That way they may be able to arrange tutorials and extra classes around times when you are able to rest in between sessions. Most universities, colleges and schools will have student counsellors who may be able to help you as well. These services can help arrange for things like flexibility in assignment deadlines or rest periods during exams.

Practical Support Services

Ovarian Cancer Australia has collated information on practical support services available for people with ovarian cancer that can address emergency financial assistance, accommodation and transport, and home care supports.

For more information, visit our page:

Want to talk?

Ovarian Cancer Australia's Helpline is available to call 9am - 5pm AET Monday to Friday 

Acknowledgement flags

Ovarian Cancer Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land where our office is located, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation and we pay our respects to Elders past and present.