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Colorectal Cancer: Newly Diagnosed: At Work (Stages 0, 1)


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There are two issues to consider immediately:

  • Whether to tell your employer and/or co-workers (and if so, what to tell)

  • What accommodations you may need to enable you to do your job because of your health condition and/or treatment.

Before telling or taking any other action:

  • Give emotions a chance to settle. (For information about dealing with emotions, click here.) If you can, take a day or two off.

  • Think through the potential impact on work of your condition, diagnostic tests and treatment. If there is likely to be a substantial impact, you may not have a choice about telling -- at least about telling your employer. Ask your doctor how your cancer and/or treatments will impact your work. If he or she doesn't know, call the helpline at Colon Cancer Alliance 877.422.2030.

  • Review your employer provided benefits to determine which are useful now and what you need to do to access those benefits. (For information about maximizing health insurance, click here.)

  • Learn the basics about your legal rights at work. For example, the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and similar laws provide protection against discrimination. The ADA also requires that you be given a reasonable accommodation to allow you to do your work. If you are a member of a union, learn about the rights you have through your union.

  • Rather than rely solely on the law, be practical. Seek information about how your employer generally responds to health conditions and what is the best way to move forward. For instance, from an advisor at work who knows the culture well enough to give advice and who will keep your information confidential.

  • "Just in case," start keeping a work journal. Include facts that would be relevant to a discrimination claim. Making notes as things happen becomes strong evidence in the event you want to file a claim in the future.

If you will take time off, think about how to do it in a manner that least disrupts your income and benefits.

  • Call your time away from work whatever will maximize time off with benefits.

  • Learn about protections such as the Family And Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

  • Think about where income will come from during the time off.

When you have a chance, review employer benefits from the perspective of a person with colorectal cancer. For example, if your employer offers life insurance, take what you can or increase the death benefit for coverage you already have during an open enrollment period when no medical questions are asked. Likewise, consider signing up for disability and/or long term care insurance, or for increasing the benefits if you already have these coverages.

Accept the credit card offers you receive because you are employed. Credit can come in handy to pay medical and other bills or to provide cash if you need it. Do not use the cards beyond what is necessary to keep them active and fee free.


  • Colorectal cancer does not have a negative long-term impact on the careers of most people. There may be difficulties in the work place in the short term, but they do not affect the long term.

  • If you want more information about work than is contained in this document: Additional work subjects of interest to men and women with colorectal cancer can be found in our document: Work: At Work.

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