Work, money and travel
As soon as you're diagnosed with cancer, you're protected as a disabled person by the Equality Act 2010. In Northern Ireland, you're protected by the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. This means your employer must make any reasonable adjustments needed to allow you to continue working. For example, they might allow you to change your working hours or use your sick leave allowance for hospital appointments. If you have had time off work and are thinking of going back, you may want to ask if you can start off with just a few hours, gradually building up your hours when you feel able to.
Employers must not treat you less favourably for any reasons relating to your cancer. This includes recruitment, promotion, training, pay and benefits. Your employer must make 'reasonable' arrangements to help you return to your job. 'Reasonable' depends on the type of work you do and will take into account cost, practicality and how much any arrangement will be effective in helping you perform your role. If adjustments are needed at your workplace, Access to Work schemes in England, Scotland and Wales, and Northern Ireland, might provide grants for equipment and can sometimes help with the cost of taxis to work.
If you think you've been treated unfairly at work, you should speak to your employer first. If there's still a problem, you can contact ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service), Citizens Advice or your union, if you have one.
- Macmillan Cancer Support produces detailed information about work and cancer, including information for people with cancer, their partners, the self-employed and employers.
Money and insurance
You may be worried about money, for example, if you're unable to work or you need to pay for things like extra childcare and travel to hospital. You can get help with some costs and you might be able to get some benefits or grants.
NHS prescriptions are free in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. If you live in England, you can get free prescriptions if you're having treatment for cancer or the effects of cancer. You'll need to fill in a form that you can get from your GP or specialist nurse. You'll then get a certificate that allows you to get free prescriptions for five years. You'll be able to renew your certificate if you're still having treatment. You may be able to get free prescriptions even if you're having private treatment. If you have a permanent stoma you'll have free prescriptions for life. Ask your GP or hospital doctor for more information.
If you have a low family income, you may be able to get help with travel costs for hospital appointments. The NHS in England, Scotland and Wales has a low income scheme. In Northern Ireland, you can also get help with health costs.
If you're receiving palliative care or caring for someone who is, you might be able to receive financial support to cover your energy bills. Marie Curie can give you expert information on things like supplier-specific support, grants, and energy efficiency updates. To find out more, call the Marie Curie helpline on 0800 090 2309 and ask to speak to an Energy Support Officer.
If you have an insurance policy, such as critical illness cover, income protection or mortgage payment protection, you may be able to make a claim when you're diagnosed with cancer. You can find out more about this by reading Macmillan Cancer Support's booklet on insurance from their Financial guidance series of information.
If you're a driver, you'll need to notify the DVLA if you have any side effects that could affect your driving, such as peripheral neuropathy. The government website has more information about when and how to get in touch.
Some people have found it hard to get information about what help they can get with money and have had problems claiming benefits. If you need some help, call Macmillan Cancer Support on 0808 808 0000. They can help with questions about benefits and insurance and can send you booklets with detailed information. They also offer grants to people on low incomes.
Speak to your healthcare team if you're planning to travel during your treatment. They can tell you how your treatment might affect your plans. They can also give you a letter to take with you, listing the medicines you're taking and what they're for. This can be helpful if you're travelling abroad. If you have a stoma, your stoma care nurse specialist can give you a card that explains, in several languages, what your stoma supplies are for. They can also offer helpful tips for travelling with a stoma. Always carry some supplies in your hand luggage in case of baggage delays.
If you're travelling to Europe, you can get a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which gives you free or cheaper health care. You can get more information and a free card from the NHS Choices website. Make sure you also have travel insurance. Some high street companies offer insurance to people with cancer but there may be some limits to what they'll cover you for. There are specialist companies that insure people with illnesses such as cancer. Some of these can be more expensive so you might need to shop around.
- Download our 'Living well' booklet for information and advice on life after bowel cancer treatment
- Colostomy UK and IA (Ileostomy and Internal Pouch Support Group) have information on travelling with a stoma
- Visit our forum to talk about your experiences, share knowledge and get support from other people
Page reviewed: August 2023