What Is External Beam Radiation Therapy
During external beam radiation therapy, a beam of radiation is directed through the skin to the cancer and the immediate surrounding area in order to destroy the main tumor and any nearby cancer cells. To minimize side effects, the treatments are typically given five days a week, Monday through Friday, for a number of weeks. This allows doctors to get enough radiation into the body to kill the cancer while giving healthy cells time each day to recover.
The radiation beam is usually generated by a machine called a linear accelerator. The linear accelerator, or linac, is capable of producing high-energy X-rays and electrons for the treatment of your cancer. Using high-tech treatment planning software, your treatment team controls the size and shape of the beam, as well as how it is directed at your body, to effectively treat your tumor while sparing the surrounding normal tissue. Several special types of external beam therapy are discussed in the next sections. These are used for specific types of cancer, and your radiation oncologist will recommend one of these treatments if he or she believes it will help you.
Telling The Boss And Colleagues
Typically, sharing life news with those at work isn’t difficult, but when talking about a breast cancer diagnosis, the words can get caught in your mouth.
First, don’t rush it. There is no reason to talk to the boss or colleagues so soon after receiving the news. Wait until it feels as comfortable as possible.
There is no right or wrong way to divulge a cancer diagnosis. Some people might feel more comfortable talking to their boss or supervisor first, avoiding the miscommunication that can stem from the office gossip mill. Consider setting up a meeting or a lunch, so you can be sure to have her full attention. Also, remember that discussions about health between a boss and employee are protected.A supervisor has a legal obligation to keep the information private. However, co-workers do not have the same obligation.
Talking to colleagues about a cancer diagnosis isn’t a necessity; however, co-workers can be an unexpected source of support. It’s not uncommon for colleagues to provide needed support for those with breast cancer. This support may include personal assistance on the job, donated vacation days, or even a fundraising campaign.
Should You Tell Work About Your Breast Cancer
If you have breast cancer, does your boss really need to know? How about your co-workers?
Its your call. And it depends on whats best for you.
If youll need time off during treatment or reasonable accommodations, like being able to work from home, it may help to tell your boss or HR team. Co-workers youre close to could be a comfort.
But if youd rather keep it private, you can.
Heres how four women handled their breast cancer diagnosis at work.
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Before You Tell Your Boss
The first two things to consider are how private or open you want to be, and what you need from your workplace to get through this time.
âI am pretty much an open book kind of person. I told my supervisors soon after each time I was diagnosed,â says Debbie McCarron of Huntington Beach, CA. She was treated for stage I breast cancer in 2001, stage III in 2009, and stage I again in 2015. McCarron was an executive vice president at a mortgage company, and she now works as a mortgage underwriter.
âItâs going to depend so intensely on the individual person, their preferences and personality, their workplace and concerns around their workplace, how they feel about privacy, and what kind of job they have,â says Rebecca Nellis, chief mission officer at the nonprofit Cancer and Careers. âWe encourage people to do a lot of fact-finding and a lot of internal thinking before they disclose.â
If you work at a small company or on a team where people share a great deal of their lives, your answer might be different from someone in a more impersonal workplace who prefers to keep their private life private.
Telling your workplace also isnât an all-or-nothing proposition. You get to decide whom you tell, when, and how much.
You could only tell your immediate manager, or only your HR department.
âIt was important for me to keep doing normal activities, like working,â Shaw says. âI wanted to show other people around me that there isn’t one ‘right’ way to have cancer.â
I Told My Boss And Some Coworkers
Niomi Thompson, a community college administrator in Wichita, KS, is receiving chemotherapy for stage III breast cancer. She chose to disclose her diagnosis at work because she knew she would look different once she started treatment and would have to miss days off work.
The first person I told was my direct supervisor, Thompson says. After about a week, I emailed several close coworkers directly to let them know. He also allowed his supervisor to tell other members of his team so that he would not have to repeat his story over and over again.
He is happy with his decision.
My direct supervisors were incredibly understanding and kind, as were my coworkers and other team members, Thompson says. Im glad I told them because many of them shared their experiences with cancer and it was comforting to hear their stories.
Thompsons coworkers also arranged meals for her chemo days, which helped her family. But not everyone has such a supportive position.
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How Does Radiation Therapy Work / What Is Radiotherapy
Radiation therapy, or radiotherapy, is the use of various forms of radiation to safely and effectively treat cancer and other diseases. Radiation oncologists may use radiation to cure cancer, to control the growth of the cancer or to relieve symptoms, such as pain. Radiation therapy works by damaging cells. Normal cells are able to repair themselves, whereas cancer cells cannot. New techniques also allow doctors to better target the radiation to protect healthy cells.
Sometimes radiation therapy is the only treatment a patient needs. At other times, it is only one part of a patients treatment. For example, prostate and larynx cancer are often treated with radiotherapy alone, while a woman with breast cancer may be treated with surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
Radiation may also be used to make your primary treatment more effective. For example, you can be treated with radiation therapy before surgery to help shrink the cancer and allow less extensive surgery than would otherwise be needed; or you may be treated with radiation after surgery to destroy small amounts of cancer that may have been left behind. A radiation oncologist may choose to use radiation therapy in a number of different ways. Sometimes the goal is to cure the cancer. In this case, radiation therapy may be used to:
- Shrink tumors that are interfering with your quality of life, such as a lung tumor that is causing shortness of breath.
- Relieve pain by reducing the size of your tumor.
If You Want To File A Discrimination Complaint
If you think you have been discriminated against at work on the basis of disability, you can file a complaint with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission . You must do this within 180 days of when you think the discrimination occurred . For more specific information about ADA requirements affecting employment, contact the EEOC at 1-800-669-4000 or 1-800-669-6820 .
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Telling Your Boss And Co
The first question you may want to ask yourself when thinking about talking to your boss or coworkers about your breast cancer diagnosis is Should I tell? You dont have to tell anyone at work, unless it is apparent that your diagnosis or treatment will interfere with your ability to work or your work schedule. Keep in mind that if you decide not to discuss your health at work, some questions may be raised if your productivity level is affected, or if you miss a lot of time at work due to treatment appointments.
You might decide to just tell some people your supervisor, your closest colleagues, or someone with whom you share responsibilities. Or, you could decide to tell everything to everyone, depending on how comfortable you feel. So how do you tell them, and what do you tell them? Keep in mind that people may react differently; you may receive great amounts of support from some coworkers, while others might not be as comfortable with the conversation.
Your comfort is the most important, so do what feels right for you. Here are some things you might want to try to make the discussion a little easier:
I Had To Work During Cancer Treatment And It Sucked
In our monthly column, senior writer and editor Adriana Ermter shares her personal experiences with breast cancer.
I worked during my entire breast cancer treatment. I didnt want to. I had to. I live alone. I dont have a husband or boyfriend. I pay my bills on time and by myself. Yes, it was a choice, but it was a horrible one.
Im actually not super comfortable writing about this. It makes me feel itchy-scratchy all over, like Im wearing a too-tight, too thick, wool turtleneck sweater. But if I dont write about it the itchy-scratchy feeling will get worse. I know because Ive been here before. Clearly, Im going through something, like a blockage in my career that I need to move through. And in my heart, I know the only way through this rough spot is by sharing about how my former employer dealt with my cancer diagnosis and how it felt to work throughout it all. I wont name names or be rude, but Im also not going to sugarcoat my words. Honestly, Id rather not talk about any of this at all, but thats not working out for me. I wouldnt feel itchy-scratchy if it was.
The Itchy-scratchy Feeling
Telling Work About My Diagnosis
Because past experiences with my boss had proven she would not advocate for or on my behalf, I created a document outlining my cancer surgery and treatment path and updated her and the companys human resources regularly as my medical condition evolved.
Replacing Fear With Self Care
Building The Big Plan
Making a Change
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Cancer Doctors Usually Treat Cancer With Radiation Therapy Surgery Or Medications Including Chemotherapy Hormonal Therapy And/or Biologic Therapy Either Alone Or In Combination
If your cancer can be treated with radiation, you will be referred to a radiation oncologist a doctor who specializes in treating patients with radiation therapy. Your radiation oncologist will work with your primary doctor and other cancer specialists, such as surgeons and medical oncologists, to oversee your care. He or she will discuss the details of your cancer with you, the role of radiation therapy in your overall treatment plan and what to expect from your treatment.
Is Radiation Therapy Safe
Some patients are concerned about the safety of radiation therapy. Radiation has been used successfully to treat patients for more than 100 years. In that time, many advances have been made to ensure that radiation therapy is safe and effective.
Before you begin receiving radiation therapy, your radiation oncology team will carefully tailor your plan to make sure that you receive safe and accurate treatment. Treatment will be carefully planned to focus on the cancer while avoiding healthy organs in the area. Throughout your treatment, members of your team check and re-check your plan. Special computers are also used to monitor and double-check the treatment machines to make sure that the proper treatment is given. If you undergo external beam radiation therapy, you will not be radioactive after treatment ends because the radiation does not stay in your body. However, if you undergo brachytherapy, tiny radioactive sources will be implanted inside your body, in the tumor or in the tissue surrounding the tumor, either temporarily or permanently. Your radiation oncologist will explain any special precautions that you or your family and friends may need to take.
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Dealing With Changes To Your Body
A diagnosis of breast cancer may change how you think about your body. All women react differently to the physical changes that happen as a result of breast cancer treatment.
Some women react positively, but others find it more difficult to cope. It’s important to give yourself time to come to terms with any changes to your body.
Want to know more?
Will You Be Eligible For Social Security Disability
Since you started working, a portion of each of your paychecks has gone to Social Security. You planned on that money for your retirement, but it is also available to you if you become permanently disabled and you cannot work.
Generally, in order to receive Social Security disability benefits, you must be unable to work because of a medical condition that is expected to either last at least one year or result in death. If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer then there are several ways to prove your eligibility.
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Legal Rights Of Disability And Fmla
Under the ADA, cancer qualifies on a case-by-case basis. The act protects individuals from losing their jobs due to disability and sets guidelines for employers regarding required accommodations. The U.S. EEOC, which enforces the ADA, offers the following example of a woman with breast cancer who would qualify for job protection under the act.
“Following a lumpectomy and radiation for aggressive breast cancer, a computer sales representative experienced extreme nausea and constant fatigue for six months. She continued to work during her treatment, although she frequently had to come in later in the morning, work later in the evening to make up the time, and take breaks when she experienced nausea and vomiting. She was too exhausted when she came home to cook, shop or do household chores and had to rely almost exclusively on her husband and children to do these tasks. This individual’s cancer is a disability because it substantially limits her ability to care for herself.”
Is Breast Cancer Classed As A Disability
For the purposes of the Equality Act 2010 anyone who has or has had breast cancer is classed as disabled.
The Equality Act protects employees from being discriminated against because of their disability.
The Disability Discrimination Act continues to protect people living in Northern Ireland.
You cannot lose your job or be treated less favourably for having breast cancer.
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Telling Your Boss And Colleagues
Once you’ve got your ducks in a row, the next step is to think about how much, if anything, you want to reveal to your employer. Deciding whether to share the news is an intensely personal decision and you are not obligated to tell anyone. You may not know how your boss will react or how supportive they’ll be. Perhaps you’re afraid it will change the way you are treated on the job. Your company’s culture, size, and your relationship with your co-workers are all things to consider as you make your decision.
Be aware, however, that if you choose not to reveal your illness, you may not be eligible for accommodations. Also, depending on the nature of your treatment and symptoms, sharing your diagnosis may become inevitable.
If you do choose to tell your supervisor and colleagues, here are some ways to make it as stress-free as possible for all concerned:
Know What’s Involved In Your Treatment Plan
Before you approach your boss or colleagues, talk to your doctor so you understand the details of your treatment plan, including how long it will take you to recover from surgery, how long you will receive follow-up treatments such as radiation or chemotherapy, and the types of side effects you are likely to experience.
Explain the kind of work you do to your doctor, including your responsibilities, work environment, and how many hours you generally put in each week. Be realistic about other commitments you may have away from the job as well. Remember that effects of treatment are cumulative and, as you near the end of treatment, you may need a block of unbroken time in which to recover.
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How To Apply For Disability
The easiest way to start is to apply for disability online from the comfort of your own home.
If youd prefer, you can also apply in person with the help of a Social Security representative at your closest Social Security office. To make an appointment to apply in person, simply call the SSA toll free at 1-800-772-1213.
You should hear back from the SSA regarding your claim within five months, but anyone with IBC or metastatic breast cancer should be approved within a couple of weeks.
Hopefully, you found this information helpful.; If you have any questions, please leave comments or send me an email and I will try to get your questions answers about getting social security disability benefits for breast cancer.
Rachel is an Austin blogger, mom, wife, young breast cancer survivor writing about health, saving money, and living a happy life in Austin, Texas.
Rachel has written for HuffPost and Hometalk and has been featured on KXAN, Studio 512, Fox 7 Austin, and CBS Austin.
I Was Expected To Live Just 18 Months Work Helped Me Survive Seven Years
I was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer on Valentines Day in 2012. This type is considered terminal and I was given less than 18 months to live. I was a mother and a Youth Services Coordinator librarian at two libraries in Hatfieldboth jobs I loved more than anything. So I said, F— thatand I decided I was going to prove the doctors wrong.
I tried any and every treatment that might help my cancer. I did radiation and chemo and had multiple surgeries over the next seven years. I also did a variety of Eastern and homeopathic treatments in addition to the more mainstream treatments. This meant I did have to take some time off, especially after my surgeries, but I continued my career.
Thankfully my bosses and coworkers were very accommodating, giving me time off when I needed it and keeping me updated when I was out. I couldnt wait to get back to work. Whether or not I was in the office, I kept up on my special projects, designing book-themed events for the kids. During this time I even received several promotions. The hardest part was when the pain got the best of me and my body couldnt keep up with everything my heart and mind wanted to do.
I adored my husband and daughter but working gave me a sense of making a difference beyond the sphere of my immediate family. With a terminal cancer diagnosis, I needed a purpose in life, to feel like I was really making a difference in the world, and my job gave me that.