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Working with cancer: What you need to know (ERISA)

On Behalf of | Mar 28, 2022 | ERISA

Cancer – of any kind – is a devastating disease, so it’s only natural that a diagnosis throws your entire world in disarray.

You probably have tons of questions. Eventually, however, your mind is bound to turn to the most practical concern of all: Can you keep working while you’re undergoing treatment or not? Here’s what to consider.

Talk with your doctor, but remember that every case is unique

Your doctor may have the clearest perspective of all about the way that your disease and your treatment are likely to affect your ability to function, but don’t be surprised if the doctor says that the decisions about whether to keep working, how long to continue and when to stop and file for short-term or long-term disability benefits are really up to you.

What your doctor means by this is that no two people respond exactly the same way to either illness or treatment. Your ability to keep working while you battle your disease will have a lot to do with:

  • The type of cancer that you have and how far it has already developed
  • The type of treatment that you are getting, including the side effects that treatment causes
  • Any underlying medical conditions that you have, aside from the cancer
  • The type of work you do, including how mentally or physically taxing your work is. If your work requires you to travel extensively, you probably cannot continue if you are involved in daily chemotherapy or radiation treatments. On the other hand, if you have a purely sedentary job or work from home, you may be able to continue, assuming the treatment does not impair your cognitive functioning, and you are not experiencing debilitating fatigue.


Don’t be afraid to discuss these issues with your doctor to get their take – and don’t be afraid to say (today or in the future) that you need to stop working while you’re fighting your disease. The vast majority of cancer doctors understand your situation quite well, and are likely to be supportive. Needless to say, you should not be filing for disability benefits if your doctor is unwilling to support your claim.

ERISA and individual disability plans are supposed to be there for just these kinds of situations. If your disability insurance company is not living up to their end of your deal, it may be time to explore other legal options.