During and after treatment for cancer, many people face logistical hurdles and questions relating to insurance, employment, finances, and scholarship opportunities. Addressing these issues can be challenging and overwhelming even at the best of times, when you’re in good health and not worried about cancer.
We offer a number of resources to help you and your family address and resolve these kinds of challenges.
People who have had cancer can still qualify for life insurance, but it will likely be more difficult than before. Getting coverage often depends on the insurance company you’re dealing with, since each has different requirements based on the type of cancer you had or how long you’ve been out of treatment.
Some insurance companies require that you be five or more years out of treatment before issuing you a policy, while others look closely at the type of cancer you had and grant policies based on statistical formulas they maintain.
It’s important to research the different companies and to check with your employer, who sometimes can provide a plan as part of your company benefits package.
Find out more about insurance-related issues.
National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship (NCCS) Insurance
NCCS offers valuable information on what cancer survivors need to know about health insurance.
Georgetown University Health Policy Institute
This organization’s consumer guide provides insight on getting and keeping health insurance in each state and in the District of Columbia.
The Patient Advocate Foundation
This national nonprofit organization offers cancer survivors resources and counseling about health insurance.
Among the free legal services to patients within the medical setting that this organization provides are individual consultations, advice and counseling, direct representation, and referrals to other legal services or private attorneys. A number of New York City hospitals offer weekly legal clinics.
Insurance Information from the Lance Armstrong Foundation
This foundation provides information on disability income insurance, individual and group health insurance, life insurance, and property and casualty insurance.
Managed by the US Department of Health and Human Services, this website provides information on understanding the Affordable Care Act, passed on March 23, 2010.
For some cancer survivors, looking for a new job or reentering the job market can be a challenging experience. Unless you have physical or mental disabilities that limit the type of work you can do, your experience with cancer shouldn’t affect your ability to get a job.
Here are some answers to common questions for workers.
Am I obligated to tell my employer about my cancer diagnosis or medical history?
In short, the answer is no. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), an employer is prohibited from asking you about your medical history. In addition, you’re not required to disclose any medical information or history to your employer. However, there may be circumstances in which it could be helpful to tell your employer about your cancer history — for instance, if you are in need of any special accommodations at work, such as a flexible schedule for follow-up appointments. In this case your employer is legally obligated to provide reasonable accommodations to make your work life as comfortable and manageable as possible while attending to your medical needs.
Many survivors tell us that they fear discrimination if they speak up about their cancer history. This is understandable. However, if the employer is not aware of your cancer history, they are not obliged to make any reasonable accommodations.
How do I explain a gap in my resume as a result of undergoing cancer treatments?
There are a number of ways to address gaps in your resume due to your cancer experience. First, you can avoid the standard resume format and consider using a “functional” resume format, rather than a chronological one. A functional resume is organized in terms of listing job skills and qualifications, rather than the details of all your former positions. This will eliminate the time gap that would be seen in the chronological resume format.
Alternatively, highlight other activities that might have been going on as you were undergoing treatments for cancer, such as rearing children, caring for a sick family member, going to school for a degree, starting your own blog, or pursing additional training. It’s never smart to lie. While you are not obliged to disclose your cancer diagnosis or any treatment you’ve had, it’s important to have an answer prepared so that the interviewer has some idea of what you were doing during that time period.
Are there any laws protecting my rights if I feel I am being discriminated against at work?
Yes. As a cancer survivor, you are protected from being discriminated against in the workplace under the ADA. Also under the ADA, a person with a disability is still considered qualified for a job if he or she can perform the job functions with reasonable accommodations. This means that your employer must provide adequate scheduling, working conditions, or other adjustments as long as they do not cause undue hardship to the company.
The ADA defines undue hardship as “significant difficulty or expense” and focuses on the resources and circumstances of the particular employer in relationship to the cost or difficulty of providing a specific accommodation. You have rights in the workplace, and if you feel you are being discriminated against due to your cancer history, you can seek the appropriate help, either through a social worker or legal agency.
What other employment-related resources are available to me as a cancer survivor?
You may want to explore the following websites for information on careers and working after completing treatment for cancer:
Cancer and Careers
Cancer and Careers is a national nonprofit that empowers and educates people with cancer to thrive in their workplace, by providing expert advice, interactive tools and educational events. Its free services include a comprehensive website and library of publications in English and Spanish; legal and insurance information; career coaching; resume review; professional development micro-grants; and national events and workshops for people with cancer and their healthcare providers, coworkers and employers.
The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
The EEOC has compiled Questions and Answers About Cancer in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act, which is a document that describes the ADA in detail and provides examples about how it can impact cancer patients and survivors.
American Cancer Society - Americans with Disabilities Act
The American Cancer Society provides basic information about the ADA.
National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship (NCCS) Employment
NCCS offers valuable information on your employment rights as a cancer survivor.
Job Accommodation Network
The Job Accommodation Network has tools to help you understand the types of workplace adjustments that may help you to continue working during and after cancer treatment.
Learn about the many finance-related resources available to you as a cancer survivor.
Finances from the Lance Armstrong Foundation
The Lance Armstrong Foundation provides detailed information on topics such as assessing your financial situation, investment planning, and credit for survivors.
The National Financial Resources Guidebook for Patients
The Patient Advocate Foundation offers a state-by-state directory of information for patients seeking financial relief for a broad range of needs, including housing, utilities, food, and transportation to medical treatment.
- Off Treatment: Financial Guidance for Cancer Survivors and Their Families
The American Cancer Society provides information to help cancer survivors and their families make sound, informed decisions for their financial well-being.
A number of education scholarships are available to cancer survivors.
FinAid Cancer Scholarships
This website contains information about scholarships for cancer patients and survivors, children of cancer patients or survivors, students who’ve lost a parent to cancer, and students pursuing careers in cancer treatment.
Patient Advocate Foundation
The Scholarships for Survivors Program at this organization offers scholarships to students who are survivors of a life-threatening, chronic, or debilitating disease. Recipients must pursue a course of study that renders them immediately employable after receiving a two-year, four-year, or advanced-studies degree. Call 800-532-5274 for more information.
Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation of the United States
This foundation offers scholarships to students who’ve been diagnosed with a childhood brain and/or spinal cord tumor. Explore the site or call 800-253-6530 for more information.
Cancer survivors applying for scholarships from the Surviving and Moving Forward Fund must be between the ages of 17 and 35, and living in the United States. Explore the site, email email@example.com, or call 617-938-3484 for more information.
The Ulman Cancer Fund
The National College Scholarship Program offers educational funding to young adult cancer survivors and young adults affected by the diagnosis or loss of a parent to cancer. Scholarships include the Matt Stauffer Memorial, the Marilyn Yetso Memorial, the Vera Yip Memorial, and the Satola Family Scholarships, all of which are available to applicants that are permanent residents of Washington, DC, Maryland, or Virginia, or who are from another state but planning to attend an educational institution in Maryland, Virginia, or Washington, DC.