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Cancer patients face many challenges when returning to the workplace, such as managing treatment side effects, handling discrimination at work and legal and financial hurdles. One of the biggest challenges faced is figuring out how to talk to their employers about their diagnosis and accommodations that they might need in the workplace.

Many survivors need benefits and accommodations that employers are legally required to provide, such as reasonable accommodations or leave, but discussing these needs with an employer can be a difficult conversation. While there are many methods that have proven effective at improving physician-patient communications, these have not been used in the workplace. A recent study in the Psycho-Oncology Journal examined how we might apply these methods to provide patients with communication skills training to aid their conversations with their employers about workplace rights.

The researchers produced an educational DVD for patients to help improve communication in the workplace, as well as walking them through a mock conversation. The conclusion that the researchers drew is promising: "Our data provides promising preliminary evidence that patient communication skills training . . . is a welcomed aid to newly diagnosed cancer patients in their discussions with employers regarding the impact of treatment on their work performance and needs for accommodations."

Cancer and Careers offers a number of resources to help you talk to your employer about accommodations, rights in the workplace, benefits, etc. Our Manager's Toolkit is a useful publication that can be ordered or downloaded on our website to help facilitate the conversation between you and your boss. Or for more specific questions, our Ask the Experts teleconferences provide access to a career coach and legal expert so that you can ask any questions you may have about this workplace conversation. 

For even more information and tips on how to navigate the workplace after a cancer diagnosis, check out the resources on our At Work and Sharing the News pages, which explore whether or not disclosure at work is right for you.

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