Talking to your colleagues about cancer

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.

We have a section dedicated to talking about cancer. It contains tips to help you tell people about your disease. It also explores common reactions and people’s attitudes to cancer.

Some people prefer not to tell colleagues 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, make it impossible not to tell your colleagues.

Your colleagues may also be aware from your behaviour that something’s 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 you come into contact with.

If you find it difficult to discuss these issues with your colleagues, you may find it helpful to talk in confidence to our cancer support specialists on 0808 808 00 00.

Back to The impact cancer may have on work

Taking time off work

If cancer or its treatment prevent you from working, you may qualify for benefits that can provide some financial help.