Talking to your colleagues about cancer

Talking to the people you work with about your diagnosis can be difficult. You may worry about their reactions or if it will be awkward. You may decide to tell people you feel closest to at first. They may be able to help you plan how to tell others.

Telling people can have benefits:

  • it gives them the chance to support you and know what to expect
  • you can let them know when you need help
  • they may suggest helpful ways for you to cope with your work
  • it may make you feel closer to the people you work with
  • there may be people who have experience of cancer who could support you.

You could give people a short explanation of your treatment and its side effects. Tell them if tiredness is a problem, if your concentration is affected or if you’re at risk of infection.

If some people avoid you, it is usually because they don’t know what to say or are worried about saying the wrong thing. Showing them that you’re willing to talk openly about your illness may help. We have information on talking to people about 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.

Talking about cancer at work

Hear people talking about how they told colleagues about their cancer diagnosis. It also contains advice from HR professionals.

Talking about cancer >

Talking about cancer at work

Hear people talking about how they told colleagues about their cancer diagnosis. It also contains advice from HR professionals.

Talking about cancer >

There are many myths and misunderstandings about cancer. If you work with colleagues, they may worry that they could be harmed if you are having treatments such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy. However, there is 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 does not make you radioactive. Even if you have had internal radiotherapy, the radiation will only affect a small area of tissue in your body around the cancer. It will not affect anyone you come into contact with.

Sometimes, 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.

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.