An estimated 145,000 new cases of cancer were diagnosed in Australia this year, with that number set to rise to 150,000 by 2020.

Although the cancer incidence rate has increased by just over a quarter since 1982, the mortality rate has gone down. [The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare  (AIHW) report]

The most common types of cancer in Australia are:

  • Blood cancer
  • Bone cancer
  • Brain cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Childhood cancer
  • Digestive system cancers
  • Gastro-intestinal cancer
  • Gynaecological cancers
  • Lung cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Skin cancer
  • Rare cancers

A cancer diagnosis can cause a range of strong emotions from distress, disbelief, sadness, anxiety, fear and anger; and these reactions are a type of grief. This grief usually involves a shift in the way you see yourself, due to changes to your appearance either temporary or long term, making you more self-conscious, which may impact on your relationships. However, there are other things that may occur due to your loss of good health like your reduced ability to do normal activities like play sport, do vigorous activities and/or work, and these may impact you financially and this requires an adjustment. It takes time to adjust to these changes and it is important to manage this emotional distress. Sometimes people are overwhelmed by the intensity of their feelings or find that their mood changes quickly and often. Feeling low or depressed during or after treatment is common so talk to your doctor or treatment team if you are feeling down, not coping and for help with managing depression or anxiety.

Most people cope better if they learn more about their cancer diagnosis and research about their treatment options. Cancer can be isolating, even with many people to support you. Take the time to connect with other people going through a similar experience. Especially if you want to talk about the diagnosis or how you’re coping with treatment and side effects. You may feel relieved that you’re not alone and to know that others understand what you are going through. Side effects can be physical and emotional.

Developing a plan on how to manage the practical issues with work and treatment is extremely important, as work is a large part of many people’s lives. Whether you are able to keep working during treatment for cancer will depend on your personal situation. This may be dependent on how supportive the employer is and if you are able to do flexible working arrangements. The other alternative is if you are able to take unpaid time off or use your paid leave entitlements. In general, discrimination in the workplace due to cancer and treatment is unlawful. This includes stopping you taking leave, offering you a more junior role or dismissing you, for a reason related to your cancer.

Cancer is considered a disability under Australian law. If you cannot perform your usual work duties, the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act (1992) requires your employer to make changes/adjustments to the workplace so you can keep working. You and your employer can discuss ideas for possible changes. These changes are known as reasonable adjustments. Changes could be temporary or long term to your duties, work space or hours. Your health care team may also have some useful suggestions.

Some people need to keep working for financial reasons, but work can also give you a chance to socialise, help you maintain your sense of identity, get you out of the house and keep you busy – providing you with a routine, which is important to some people.

For more tips and information about managing cancer, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery, targeted therapy, immunotherapy and complementary therapies and the side effects from these treatments read the Cancer Council’s publications and copies of booklets, visit your local Cancer Council website or Call 13 11 20 for information and support on cancer related issues.


Cancer Council Australia –

Cancer Council SA –

Cancer Council ACT –

Cancer Council NSW –

Cancer Council NT –

Cancer Council Queensland –

Cancer Council Tasmania –

Cancer Council Victoria –

Cancer Council WA –

Photo credit:


Like this article?

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on Linkdin
Share on Pinterest