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Job Hunting after Cancer

Posted 11/23/2015

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  It is often difficult to return to work after a hiatus for cancer treatment. It is much harder to look for a new job. I surely have known a number of people who, for a range of reasons, needed to seek employment after cancer, and most of them were eventually successful. For those who weren't, it is impossible to know whether cancer/cancer treatment/discrimination was the issue or whether it was other things. For sure, though, needing to look for work after cancer requires courage, determination, and persistence--and luck.

  Sometimes people are motivated to make a work change after cancer because they have changed. Whether it is a shift in priorities--wanting to give back or to make more money or something else--or whether it is due to poor support from a previous employer or physical changes that necessitate a different work place, it happens, and it is never easy. One might think that having successfully managed a cancer diagnosis and treatment would be a big confidence builder, but it sometimes seems to be the opposite. If you are not feeling so good about the way you look or your energy level or your ongoing chemo brain, it is hard to present yourself in the best possible light to potential employers.

  Here is the answer to the most common question: What do I say about the gap in my resume that is due to cancer treatment and recovery. First, remember that no one can legally ask about your health history. We do know that it is unwise to lie in an interview, so the trick becomes finding the truth that can't be turned against you. Here is my best suggestion: First, don't wait to be asked. Take control by bringing it up. Say something like: "You will notice that I have not worked for the past year and a half. There were some medical problems in my family that needed my attention. Everything is fine now, and I can give my full attention to the job."

 Cancer and Careers is a superb organization with a website that addresses almost everything that you may be thinking about. Find them at

  This is also a useful article from Cancer Net:

Finding a Job After Cancer

For some cancer survivors, looking for a new job or reentering the job market is a challenging experience. However, your cancer history should not affect your ability to get a job. If you meet the qualifications for a job, an employer cannot refuse to hire you simply because you have had cancer. Outside of having physical or mental challenges that limit the type of work you can do, you are employable.

Discrimination concerns
Most employers treat cancer survivors fairly and legally. However, some cancer survivors experience discrimination when looking for a job. Cancer-related discrimination usually comes from:
Misunderstanding of cancer and its treatments, Stereotypes about cancer, or
Incorrect assumptions about what cancer survivors can or cannot do on the job.
Cancer survivors have protection from both state and federal laws. These include the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act. Learn more how these laws can help protect you if you experience discrimination in the workplace.

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