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Cancer is not a single disease with a single cause. More than 100,000 people of working age are diagnosed with cancer each year in the UK.

Treatment for cancer varies dependent on the individual, the type of cancer and the severity of it and a diagnosis of cancer does not necessary mean that an individual won’t be able to work. Each year many people will continue to work during and after treatment.

How does cancer affect people?

How people are affected by cancer will be different from one person to another. It depends on the type of cancer, side effects of treatment, symptoms caused by the cancer, the stage of cancer and how the person deals with traumatic situations.

People with cancer might:

  • Require surgery to remove the tumour
  • Have to undergo chemotherapy, radiotherapy, hormonal therapies and/or hormonal therapies
  • Feel very tired
  • Be at a higher risk of infection
  • Feel sick
  • Lose their hair
  • Lose or gain weight
  • Have difficulty concentrating
  • Have pain associated with the cancer and its treatment
  • Need to use the toilet more frequently
  • Experience depression
  • Be angry or bitter.

Supporting staff who have cancer

Supporting staff who have cancer enables them to remain at work.There are some simple things you can do to help them and your organisation:

  • Talk to your employee to find out how they would like to be supported
  • Consider flexible working so that they can manage their condition more easily
  • Allow them to reduce their working hours on a temporary or permanent basis
  • Adjust performance targets to take into account the effects of treatment and sick leave
  • If they have been off for a period of time think about offering a phased return to work.

Useful information about cancer

You might need to make some adjustments to help your employees. These could include specialist equipment like chairs and IT equipment. Grants are available through Access to Work to help to cover the cost of items that are identified as necessary to support employees who are disabled or have a health condition.

Take a look at our case studies to see how we have transformed the lives of disabled people.

Cancer Research UK

Cancer Research UK are campaigning for the best cancer services in all parts of the UK, and giving more people the chance to join the fight against cancer.


Macmillan at Work offers training,support and advice to employers managing cancer in the workplace.

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