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Talking about cancer can be very difficult. You may worry about how your colleagues will react - for example, whether they might withdraw from you. Or you may worry that talking about the cancer might make things awkward for yourself or your colleagues.
Some people may avoid you because they don’t know what to say and are afraid of saying the wrong thing. You can help them by bringing up the subject and showing that you’re willing to talk about the cancer.
Telling your colleagues can help as they then know what to expect. For example, if fatigue| affects your moods or concentration, it gives them the opportunity to support you.
For some people, it’s the right thing not to tell colleagues that they have cancer. You may not want to tell them so that you can keep one area of your life as normal as possible. This is a good way of coping for some people.
However, sometimes the effects of the cancer or cancer treatment (for example, if your hair falls out|), and the need to take time off, may make it impossible not to tell your colleagues.
Remember too, that your colleagues may be aware from your behaviour that something is wrong, and may feel uncomfortable if they don’t know what it is.
There are many myths and misunderstandings about cancer. Some of your colleagues may worry that they can catch cancer. But cancer can’t be passed on like an infection and the people you work with have no risk of catching cancer.
Some people may also worry that they could be harmed if you’re having treatments such as chemotherapy| or radiotherapy.| Again, there’s no risk to your colleagues. Chemotherapy is broken down in the body and can’t harm anyone you come into contact with. Radiotherapy treatment from an external machine doesn’t make you radioactive.
Even if you’ve had internal radiotherapy, the radiation will only affect a small area of tissue in your body around the cancer and won’t affect anyone that you come into contact with.
If you find it difficult to discuss these issues with your colleagues, you may find it helpful to read our section on talking about your cancer| of you can talk in confidence to our cancer support specialists|.
Content last reviewed: 1 May 2011
Next planned review: 2013
For answers, support or just a chat, call the Macmillan Support Line free (Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm)
If you have any questions about cancer, need support or just want someone to talk to, ask Macmillan.
Macmillan has created a number of resources to help employees affected by cancer in the workplace.
If you have any questions about Macmillan we would love to hear from you| .
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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