Now that you’ve finished treatment and you’re breast cancer free, you may find that things are a bit different. This doesn’t just refer to your outlook on life or the physical changes you went through. It can also refer to your own career interests. We’ve put together some information for you about breast cancer and work. In particular, information about how breast cancer may change your perspective, about what you might want to ask yourself about pursuing a new career, and about what you might want to consider about job interviews. Finally, we’ve got some tips and resources to help with job interviews after breast cancer.


Many women find that the careers they had before breast cancer are unfulfilling after their breast cancer journey is over.


Roughly 31 percent of individuals who have had cancer look for a new career after their treatment is done. Among those, 33 percent experience a change in their interests.


But what causes this change?


1) Breast Cancer Changes Your Perspective

breast cancer and work


You’ve most likely gone through most of your life knowing that, eventually, your time will come to an end. This idea is shared by everyone. But when you have breast cancer, that sense of limited time is multiplied. You are suddenly faced with mortality in a very real and immediate way. As a result, the way you perceive time changes.


After breast cancer, you’re more likely to become impatient with unimportant tasks. Meaningless work can make you feel frustrated. Rather than spending your time doing what society says you should, you’d rather spend it doing something that calls to you.


This change is extremely common. Many women find themselves viewing life as more meaningful than they did before breast cancer. Instead of spending your days in an office, you may prefer participating in more creative activities. Or perhaps you would like to focus more on leisure activities. This change is rarely seen among women who already enjoyed a creative or leisure career before being diagnosed with breast cancer.


Despite the medical bills you have collected, your idea about money changes, as well. Women who focused on having high-paying careers before breast cancer often put money in a secondary position. They choose to focus on meaningful work instead of profitable work. Meanwhile, women who lived paycheck to paycheck may feel motivated to finally go back to school or seek out a career they love that they previously thought they weren’t suited for.


2) What to Ask Yourself About a New Career

breast cancer and work


It’s never easy to find a new job. You may not be looking forward to the process. But it may be a process you are faced with nonetheless. You may have either chosen to change your career due to a change in your perspective. Or your previous employer was unable to grant you extended medical leave. Either, you’re once again in the position of job searching

Rediscover Your Direction

If you’re looking for a job in the same field as before your breast cancer, this part of preparing for a job search is less important.


When you’ve decided to change careers, you need to figure out what direction you hope to move in. It can be scary to make a major change, especially after what you and your family just went through. But if you are no longer satisfied in your old career, it’s time to find a new one.


Try answering some of these questions to help you figure out what your new direction is:

  • Does my old career feel satisfying to me?
  • What are my new career goals?
  • What sort of financial responsibilities must I fill?
  • Do I already have the skills for my new job interest?
  • How can I learn the skills that I need?
  • Is there anything keeping me from my new career choice?


3) Considerations for Job Hunting After Breast Cancer

breast cancer and work


As you may already know, job hunting isn’t an easy task. During the process you’re faced with a variety of challenges. Not to mention, it can be discouraging to send out so many applications and only hear back from a fraction of them.


After breast cancer, you may also be concerned about explaining the large gap in your work history. The potential need for side effect treatments can also make finding the right position difficult.


Some of the best ways to prepare for these challenges is to move forward a little bit at a time. Start by figuring out what sort of career you want. Then take the time to renew your resume. You can practice interviews, learn about companies you are interested in, and even find new career mentors.


It is not necessary for you to tell potential employers about your experience with breast cancer right away. However, you can discuss your experience if you would like. Talking about your breast cancer experience can help you demonstrate a new dedication to your job and can explain why you suddenly switched careers.


Think About Medical Insurance and Your Emotions

Your emotions and your medical insurance are some of the most pervasive concerns you may have when job hunting.


In terms of emotions, do not bury your feelings. It’s normal to feel worried about handling a new work schedule. You may be concerned about your ability to perform in your new job. Or maybe you are uncertain how you will transition from the role of a patient to that of an employee. If possible, try finding support groups to talk through these fears. Therapists, friends, and family can also help by lending an understanding ear.


Your medical insurance is also something that must be addressed when looking for a job. In most situations, your employer should provide you with insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act. But seeing as how the ACA’s future is uncertain, this might not be much of a comfort.


When you are preparing to accept a new job, always go over the medical insurance plans that your employer offers. Make sure you clearly understand what is covered under the plan. It may be helpful to talk to an insurance representative or Human Resources professional to discuss concerns specific to your life after breast cancer.


4) Tips for Job Hunting After Breast Cancer Treatment

As you search for a new job after breast cancer, try making job searching your temporary career. On a regular basis set realistic goals that you can achieve by the end of each day or week. This includes taking online courses, learning new skills, or sending out a specific number of resumes. By focusing on your job hunt this way, you can feel more accomplished even if you don’t get a call back.


Aside from that, what else can you do?

Tailor Your Resume

breast cancer and work


One of the first steps to job hunting is getting your resume up-to-date.


Consider how you want to handle the gap in your work history. Gaps less than a year long may be best suited for traditional resumes. These resumes list each job in order of when you held it. And they often feature only years instead of months. Work gaps that are more than a year long might need a functional resume. With this style, job details are included at the bottom of the page instead of the top. Above them is a brief section that highlights your skills and achievements.


The resume style you choose may also depend on the type of career you are seeking. Think about what is going to be most important for a potential employer to read about. If you possess the skills needed for a particular position, it may be beneficial to highlight them. Meanwhile, you may prefer focusing on work experience instead of specific skills if you are applying to a totally new career.


Regardless of the specific type of resume you choose, you want to include a few things. Briefly discuss how your current skills fit the needs of the company you’re applying to. Use keywords when your can and have a summary of what you are capable of.


breast cancer and work


Networking is important for getting the job you want. Many job positions are filled through some sort of personal connection. Just meeting a hiring manager during an event or conference could help you stand out during the application process.


Don’t be afraid to ask friends, former colleagues, and even acquaintances for help. Doing so may seem a bit awkward. But you may find that most people are happy to help.


When you’re networking, keep things simple and to the point. If your friends and colleagues have no leads, try reaching out beyond your circle. You can contact someone from a school alumni association. Perhaps there is a professional organization in your area dedicated to the field you want to be in. Even mentioning your job search to neighbors or dentists can help.


However, keep in mind that networking operates best when it benefits both people. When you ask others for help, be willing to provide help in return.

Interviews and the Americans with Disabilities Act

breast cancer and work


You finally got an interview! Now you just have to get through it.


Interviews are often more stressful than they need to be. You will likely be concerned about addressing work gaps and other lacking areas of your resume. Rehearsing what you plan on saying ahead of time greatly reduces any anxiety you may feel. If you know certain parts of your work history will be brought up, figure out how you want to address them. Try figuring out answers to common interview questions. And if you can, complete practice interviews with friends or family.


Always remember that you don’t have to say that you had breast cancer during an interview.


Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers cannot ask whether you have a disability or not. They also cannot ask if you are undergoing treatment for any type of cancer. This is true even if your appearance may give it away. Once you are offered the job, you may have to reveal more about your medical history.

Keep Your Boss Updated

This really only applies if you’ve told your new boss about having had breast cancer.


If you have, it may be a good idea to keep them updated as you recover. This gives you a chance to discuss the work load you can handle in the coming weeks. And it helps you address any treatment-related breaks you may need early on. Further, if you started your job part-time, updating your employer may give you a chance to request more time.


If you would like to read about some more tips related to job hunting after cancer, check out the Cancer and Careers article on the subject.


You may also be interested in reading about individuals who changed their careers after cancer. Cancer and Careers has another post sharing these individuals’ stories. also has its own article about survivors who changed careers. These individuals didn’t all go through breast cancer, but you may still find their stories inspirational.