There are many practical things to consider when you’re living with ovarian cancer. A diagnosis can have a big impact on your working life and finances. You may have questions about the benefits you’re entitled to, or the possible impact on your pension and insurance.
Read about the organisations and resources that will help you navigate these areas and manage your day-to-day life whilst undergoing treatment and recovery.
Work and finance
Taking time off work
In most cases, women will need take some time off work or education to spend in hospital to receive treatment for ovarian cancer. The amount of time taken off for treatment and recovery will be different for each person.
Having cancer counts as a ‘disability’ under the Equalities Act 2010 (in England, Scotland and Wales), or the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (in Northern Ireland). This means that your employer or college/university must not discriminate against you and must be prepared to make reasonable adjustments to help you take time off for treatment and medical appointments, as well as to continue with, or ease back into, work or education.
If you need to take time off while receiving treatment for ovarian cancer, you could speak to your line manager, or a mentor, to see if there’s a way of keeping up-to-date when you feel up to it. You may opt to receive a regular professional magazine or journal for you to read when you’re feeling well enough, or email updates on projects that you have been working on.
Returning to work after ovarian cancer
If you have taken time off while receiving treatment you can create a return to work plan with your employer to ease yourself back in. This might simply be a matter of slowly building up to your normal hours. It is understandable to feel nervous about returning to work. You may feel you don’t want to be fussed over and want to just get back to your job. It may help to call into work ahead of your return or to speak to a colleague about how you want to be treated.
Self-employment and cancer
If you’re self-employed, the same practical issues may apply to how much work you feel able to do. You won’t have the security of employer sick pay schemes but may have private sickness insurance. You may want to think about scaling back your business while you are unable to spend as much time on it as you normally would and focus on the essentials instead. If you work alongside other people it will be worth discussing whether there is capacity for others to take on the most crucial elements of your workload.
What financial help can cancer patients get?
Benefits and ovarian cancer
The benefits system is there to help but it can be difficult to navigate. The amount of financial help that you are entitled to will depend on the impact that your cancer had on you and your financial circumstances. After diagnosis and during treatment for ovarian cancer, you may need help because you are too unwell to work. In recovery, you may need support to ease back into work.
Free prescriptions for people with cancer
If you live in England, NHS prescriptions are free for people with a cancer diagnosis. You can apply for an exemption certificate using a form from your GP or hospital. The certificate lasts for 5 years and can be renewed for as long as you need it. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, prescriptions are free.
Other financial help for cancer patients
There are benefits for cancer patients that replace earnings, help with housing costs or help with some of the extra costs resulting from your illness. Other financial help is available for people on a low income due to long term illness - including support with council tax and help with health costs and travel to hospital.
Navigating the benefits system can feel like a bit of a maze, so you may wish to seek advice from a benefits advisor at Macmillan Cancer Support, Maggie’s Centres or Citizens Advice.
Insurance and pensions for cancer patients
Travel insurance after a cancer diagnosis
Routine travel insurance policies may exclude any risks associated with your cancer or exclude you because you have cancer. However, there are more specialist policies available. If you are travelling to Europe you can get a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) available via the NHS which allows you to receive medical cover on the same basis as a citizen of the country that you are visiting; having one may be a condition of your insurance or reduce your premium. Private clinics abroad can be expensive, while a public facility needs to be clear that they are treating you on the same basis as a local citizen.
Life and illness insurance for cancer patients
Having cancer should not affect any existing life or critical illness insurance, but you may find it more difficult to obtain new insurance once you have been diagnosed with cancer. Insurance companies may quote you a very high premium so it can help to talk to an insurance broker who can advise you on more specialist policies.
Your pension after a cancer diagnosis
A cancer diagnosis may have some impact on your pension. It’s a good idea to check with your current pension scheme to see if your diagnosis causes anything to change.
Where to go for information and advice
Macmillan Cancer Support
Macmillan Cancer Support is an excellent source of free and expert advice. They have lots of information that covers the practical side of a cancer diagnosis on their website. You can also visit a local centre or call their free support line on 0808 808 0000 (7 days a week, 8am-8pm).
Visit their page ‘Work and cancer’ for lots of useful information about managing your workload. For example:
provides a useful guide to your rights at work for patients in England,
Scotland and Wales and patients in Northern Ireland
- For help talking to your employer and colleagues look through ‘Finding the words: Talking about cancer at work’
- For people diagnosed with cancer who are self-employed, search 'self-employment' at www.macmillan.org.uk
Read about benefits and other financial support or speak to a Macmillan welfare rights advisor by calling their support line.
You can get confidential advice about benefits you may be entitled to by contacting a Maggie’s Benefits Advisor at your local Maggie’s Centre. You can read more about Maggie’s online or give them a call on 0300 123 1801.
Advice provides free independent and confidential advice online through
their national Adviceline 0344 411 1444 (Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm), and in over
2,500 local centres across the UK.
Dimbleby Cancer Care and Cancer Care Map
Dimbleby Cancer Care provides practical and psychological support for people living with cancer. The charity developed Cancer Care Map , an online directory that helps people find cancer care and support services in their local area.
The UK Government website has a section dedicated to disability-related financial support. The information covers a wide range of support, including benefits such as Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) the Blue Badge for parking.