How to Tell Your Employer You Have Cancer: 6 Thoughtful Tips

Dealing with the news of a cancer diagnosis can be an apprehensive and overwhelming time. If you have a job, you may be wondering how you should navigate informing your employer and coworkers about your diagnosis. 

Know that any feelings that arise are normal. Sometimes it’s difficult to gauge how your boss or coworkers may react to your news. Plus, there’s the added exhaustion of fielding questions and not having answers.

To help ease the anxiety, the CaringBridge community has offered their best advice on how to tell your employer you have cancer. With a little preparation and planning, you’ll be able to smoothly navigate this difficult situation and may even find unexpected support. 

1. Rehearse the Conversation Beforehand

Have you ever had to give a speech or presentation? Chances are you planned it out and practiced it beforehand. Think of your conversation with your employer in the same way. 

Write down everything you’re thinking of saying, and then step away from it for a few hours or even a day. Come back and pick out the most important pieces of information that your employer needs to know. Create bullet points and practice what you’re going to say. 

Practicing the conversation beforehand will make it easier. The first time you do something new is always the hardest, so the more you rehearse the less difficult it will be. It will also help you prepare for possible questions so you can field them without anxiety or stress.

2. Decide Who You Need to Tell 

Top 9 Ways to Support Cancer Patients, Backed by Research

Remember that your cancer diagnosis is your personal business. You don’t have to share your difficult news with everyone at your workplace.

You’re not required to tell your boss or coworkers, but telling a few select people might make your life easier. You might have frequent absences or be unable to complete certain work tasks. 

Informing a few trusted coworkers will invite fewer questions. They may even offer extra support to help you balance your job duties and cancer treatment. Remember that it’s all about your own level of comfort. Only share with people you feel safe with and trust.

“Only share with your employer if/when your diagnosis will interfere with your job. Never tell your coworkers unless your absence will directly affect them in a work-related way. Otherwise, it’s not their business.”

Sarah Mae S. 

“Private and personal unless it affects your job performance.”

Marijo D. 

3. Gather Necessary Information

Know that you can take your time and only share your news when you have all the information you need. This will help you manage questions and accurately address any concerns from your boss and coworkers. 

You’ll be able to better communicate what you’ll need as you go through treatment, such as adjustments to your workload or sick leave. It will also help you decide which pieces of information to share since you don’t have to inform them of every detail. 

“I waited until I had enough information to share. We have a small crew and need to work together.”

Linda H. 

4. Share News Early in the Treatment Plan

Once you have all the necessary information, find a time and private place to inform your employer. You can communicate your diagnosis, what you expect to happen and recommendations from your doctor. 

“I was open about it and told them very early in my treatment plan. Thankfully my employer was very understanding during my year leave to fight breast cancer.”

Tiffany O.

5. Lay Out Your Needs 

In your conversation, consider not only sharing important details of the diagnosis, but your needs and future work accommodations as well. You might have to leave early for treatments, accept a lighter workload or get assistance with certain tasks. You could also need more rest and recovery time as you undergo treatment.

Think of this as an opportunity to get support for the months ahead. It’s a chance for you and your employer to figure out together what adjustments need to be made so you can take care of your health.

“Each person’s situation is different. I just laid out my treatments. We worked it so I could come in early and leave early because I needed to work to keep my insurance. I was very fortunate that they were very alert when I needed more time to recover.”

Joyce H. 

6. Accept Support From Coworkers

It’s not unusual to grow close with our coworkers. After all, we see and communicate with them every day. If you decide to share your news with any of your colleagues, don’t be surprised if they offer support. The people who care about you want to help and encourage you more often than not.

Even if you aren’t close with your fellow employees, accept support from your family and friends. Let them express their love and assist you with anything you need. 

One easy way to accept support is to set up a free CaringBridge site. With the journal feature, you can post updates where your loved ones can leave words of comfort. You can also use the planner to request help with chores, transportation or other tasks.

“Everyone has to do and say what is best for him/her! Immediate family or friends can help!”

Assil E. 

Don’t Go Through Your Health Journey Alone

You can stay connected to friends and family, plan and coordinate meals, and experience love from any distance.

All of this is ready for you when you start your personal CaringBridge site, which is completely free of charge, ad-free, private and secure. Don’t spend another minute alone!

How Do You Share Difficult News? 

Sharing a cancer diagnosis can be scary and awkward. Even thinking of sharing difficult information can make us feel apprehensive or anxious.

If you’ve ever had to share difficult news with an employer or loved ones, we’d love to know what made the experience more comfortable. Feel free to comment any tips or advice you have below to help our community. You may just inspire strength and courage in someone who has to take this next step in their health journey.