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Living well after cancer


Legal, financial and workplace support

 

After cancer treatment, you may have concerns about financial issues, insurance policies and work.

Financial assistance

For many people, cancer treatment can be a financial strain. This can be caused by extra costs or loss of income. It's important to remember that support is available.

Financial support

  • Call us on 13 11 20 as we may be able to organise legal, financial and workplace advice.
  • Ask your social worker about whether any financial or practical assistance is available to you. If you have to travel for follow-up appointments, ask about patient travel assistance.
  • Call the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007 for free, confidential and independent financial counselling.
  • Ask your utility company, loan provider or local council how they can help you manage payment of your bills or loans. Check if you qualify for any rebates, concessions or hardship programs.
  • Talk to your superannuation fund about applying for an early release of your superannuation on the grounds of severe financial hardship. Find out how this will affect your retirement and whether your superannuation has any insurance policies that you could claim on.
  • Find out more information about cancer and your finances.

 

Our financial and legal support

Our financial counselling and pro bono services may be able to help if you or someone in your family had cancer, and you need financial, legal or workplace advice.

We can put you in touch with professionals who can help you with credit and debt issues, mortgage hardship variation, insurance claims and disputes, managing workplace issues, navigating a return to work, and transitioning to retirement. Call 13 11 20 to find out what services are available in your area and whether you are eligible for this assistance.

Contact cancer support

Insurance

Applying for new insurance (life, income protection or travel) may be harder because you have had cancer. You are generally required to provide your medical history, including any diagnosis of cancer.

In general, you should be able to buy insurance for things that are not cancer-related (like travel insurance for lost luggage or life insurance for accidental death). It may be difficult to buy travel insurance that covers cancer-related medical problems, but you should be able to get coverage for non-cancer-related medical costs. It is a good idea to check exactly what is covered before buying a new insurance policy. 

Working after treatment ends

Having a job is an important part of life for many people. Aside from income, work can provide satisfaction, social contact, a sense of normality, and a way of maintaining self-esteem.

If you took time off work for treatment and are returning to an existing job, talk to your employer about a return to work plan. It’s a good idea to speak with your doctor about your ability to perform your usual tasks. For some people, returning to the same job may not be possible due to changes in ability and length of time away. The desire to reduce work-related stress or seek more meaningful work may also motivate people to change jobs. 

You can learn more about cancer, work and you, and how to support colleagues and staff affected by cancer.

Frequently asked questions

Do I have a right to return to my job?

Australian laws require an employer to take reasonable steps to accommodate the effects of an employee’s illness. This may mean, for example, that your employer allows you to return to work in stages, is flexible with start and finish times, gives you time off to attend medical appointments, or provides tailored work tools.

If you are unable to carry out your previous role, your employer doesn’t have to offer you a different job unless your cancer is work-related.

Must I say I had cancer in job applications?

While some people may want to tell a potential employer that they have had cancer, you don’t need to unless it may impact on your ability to do the job. If you are asked about a gap in your résumé, you can say that you had a health issue and it’s now resolved.

A prospective employer is permitted to ask you about your ability to perform tasks that are an essential part of the job (e.g. lifting heavy boxes). If some tasks are a problem for you because of the cancer or treatment, it’s best to mention this at the interview.

What if I can no longer work?

If cancer or its treatment has made it impossible for you to return to your previous work, then rehabilitation and retraining programs can prepare you for another job. Your employer may have a rehabilitation scheme or you could discuss this with your GP. You may be eligible for a payout if you have income protection insurance. If you are unable to return to work, contact Centrelink to see if you are eligible for the Disability Support Pension or other payments. 

What can I do about discrimination at work?

A lack of knowledge about cancer may mean some people are treated differently at work after a cancer diagnosis. Employers and colleagues may think you need more time off or wonder about your ability to perform your usual role. Anyone who has had cancer is protected by the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992, which prevents employers from discriminating against people with disabilities in the workplace.

For further information and advice: 

 

Support after treatment finishes

Many people find they need support after treatment finishes. What services are available may vary depending on where you live. Some services will be free, but others might have a cost.

Get support

Survivorship programs

Survivorship programs provide information about recovery from cancer and its treatment, as well as practical information about life after cancer. Many offer group education programs for survivors that can help you meet others in a similar situation. You may find it helpful to share tips and ideas with other participants. Some programs are open to carers, family, friends and work colleagues.

Our Cancer Wellness Program assists people affected by cancer who are moving from treatment to survivorship. Topics covered may include adjusting to physical and emotional changes, working with your GP to build a healthy lifestyle, returning to work, managing the financial impacts of cancer and connections to support services in your community. Call 13 11 20 to find out more.

Some hospitals, treatment centres and community organisations offer free education programs for cancer survivors. Ask your oncologist, social worker or cancer nurse for a referral to a local support group or survivorship program.

Talking to someone who's been there

Getting in touch with other people who have had similar experiences to you can be helpful. In a support group, you may find that you are comfortable talking about your issues after treatment, relationships with friends and family, and hopes and fears for the future. There are many ways to connect with other people in a similar situation.

We run face to face and telephone support groups, and can put you in touch with someone who has had a similar cancer experience. You could also join our online discussion forum.

After treatment, some people want to help improve the cancer experience for others through support groups, volunteer work, advocacy or fundraising. If this interests you, call us on 13 11 20 for more information. There is no hurry. Focus first on your recovery. It is important to look after yourself if you want to help others.

Living Well After Cancer

Download our Living Well After Cancer booklet to learn more.

Download now

 

Expert content reviewers:

Prof Michael Jefford, Medical Oncologist and Director, Australian Cancer Survivorship Centre, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Lucy Bailey, Nurse Counsellor, Cancer Council Queensland; Philip Bullas, Consumer; Dr Kate Gunn, Clinical Psychologist and Senior Research Fellow, Department of Rural Health, University of South Australia, SA; Rosemerry Hodgkin, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Prof David Joske, Clinical Haematologist, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and Clinical Professor of Medicine, The University of Western Australia, WA; Kim Kerin-Ayres, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Cancer Survivorship, Concord Hospital, NSW; Sally Littlewood, Physiotherapist, Seymour Health, VIC; Georgina Lohse, Social Worker, GV Health, VIC; Melanie Moore, Exercise Physiologist and Clinical Supervisor, University of Canberra Cancer Wellness Clinic, ACT; June Savva, Senior Clinician Dietitian, Nutrition and Dietetics, Monash Cancer Centre, Monash Health, VIC; Dr Elysia Thornton-Benko, Specialist General Practitioner and Research Fellow, University of New South Wales, NSW; Prof Janette Vardy, Medical Oncologist, Concord Cancer Centre and Professor of Cancer Medicine, The University of Sydney, NSW; Lyndell Wills, Consumer.

Page last updated:

The information on this webpage was adapted from Living well after cancer - A guide for people with cancer, their families and friends (2021 edition). This webpage was last updated in May 2022.

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Questions about cancer?

Call or email our experienced cancer nurses for information and support.

Contact a cancer nurse