Financial options and entitlements
Breast cancer treatment can cause financial strain and worry. In addition to your normal everyday expenses, you may have extra costs for medical treatments and tests.
I had a month off after surgery and reduced my full-time hours to two days per week. This conserved some of my sick leave, and ensured I had some income coming in. This was my manager's suggestion.
Making decisions about work
Some people take a break from work during breast cancer treatment and recovery. Others choose to continue working, either to support themselves financially or to help normalise their situation.
Before choosing what’s best for you, consult the following information sources to assist with your decision making:
- Talk to your doctor, breast care nurse of hospital social worker about the likely costs of tests, treatments and support services.
- Contact BCNA's Helpline to discuss any concerns and questions you have.
- Contact the Cancer Council Helpline on 13 11 20.
- Join BCNA's online network and connect with others in a similar position to you.
- Find out if you are eligible for a health care card or payments from Centrelink (phone: 13 27 17).
- Find out if you are eligible for travel assistance through a state or territory government Patient Assisted Transport Scheme (PATS).
- If you live in rural or regional Australia and you need to travel for treatment, your state or territory government may offer financial assistance.
Knowing your entitlements
- Discuss your leave entitlements with your employer to find out how much leave you have accrued and are eligible to take. This can include personal leave, annual leave and long service leave.
- If you have income protection or trauma insurance, you may be eligible to make a claim while you’re receiving treatment.
- Check whether your superannuation policy includes include income protection or total and permanent disability insurance.
- Financial institutions often accommodate for those undergoing cancer treatment – ask about hardship variation to your bills, debts and other repayments.
- Be sure to check with the Department of Human Services to see which government funding you are entitled to, e.g. childcare, parking, taxi and lymphoedema compression garment subsidies.
Taking time off work
After your diagnosis you may need to take time off:
- for medical appointments
- during treatment or while recovering
- to cope with emotional stress or side effects from treatment.
If you're working when you are diagnosed, your financial situation, the type of work you do and how you feel physically and emotionally will affect if and when you choose to go back to work.
Taking time off work can mean less income. However, you may be able to alter your work type and hours to accommodate your needs.
Ensure you are aware of your rights at work and your eligibility to change your work arrangements.
Working through treatment
If you choose to stay at work, be sure to talk with your employer about:
- reducing your hours
- adjusting your role or work duties
- support you if you need to take time off
- your leave entitlements, as you may need to use your sick leave to subsidise your income during this time.
It is important to seek expert advice before making decisions about leaving work all together. There may be implications on financial supports and entitlements depending on your situation.
For further information, the following resources are available:
- Download BCNA’s Managing finances, work and breast cancer fact sheet.
- Search for your nearest free financial counsellor.
- Read the financial and practical support section.
- Watch BCNA's Managing the expenses of breast cancer video.
- For information on dealing with finances and debt contact the National Debt Helpline 1800 007 007 or visit the National Debt Helplink website.
- For free financial counselling for those living in rural areas visit the Rural Financial Counselling Service website.