Mouth cancer : Living with

Having mouth cancer doesn't necessarily mean you'll have to give up work. However, you may need quite a lot of time off, and you may not be able to work in the same way you did before treatment.

If you have cancer, you're covered by the Disability Discrimination Act. This means your employer isn't allowed to discriminate against you because of your illness, and they have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to help you cope.

Examples of these include:

  • allowing you time off for medical appointments and treatment
  • being flexible about your working hours, tasks or working environment

The definition of what is reasonable depends on the situation – for example, how much it would affect your employer's business.

It will help if you give your employer as much information as possible about how much time you'll need off and when.

Talk to your human resources representative if you have one. Your union or staff association representative should also be able to give you advice.

If you're having difficulties with your employer, you may be able to receive help from your union or local Citizens Advice.

Money and financial support

You may find it difficult to cope financially if you have to stop work or work part-time because of your cancer.

If you have cancer or you're caring for someone with cancer, you may be entitled to financial support such as:

  • Statutory Sick Pay from your employer – if you have a job but can't work because of your illness
  • Employment and Support Allowance – if you don't have a job and can't work because of your illness
  • Carer's Allowance – if you're caring for someone with cancer
  • other benefits if you have children living at home or a low household income

Find out as early as possible what help is available to you. Speak to the social worker at your hospital, who can give you the information you need.

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Free prescriptions

People being treated for cancer are entitled to apply for an exemption certificate, giving them free prescriptions for all medication, including medicine for unrelated conditions.

The certificate is valid for 5 years and you can apply for it through your GP or cancer specialist.

GOV.UK has more information and advice about benefit entitlements.

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Talk to others

It's not always easy to talk about cancer, either for you or your family and friends. You may sense that some people feel awkward around you or avoid you.

Being open about how you feel and what your family and friends can do to help may put them at ease. Don't feel embarrassed or awkward about telling them that you need some time to yourself, if that's what you need.

If you have questions, your GP or nurse may be able to reassure you. You may find it helpful to talk to a trained counsellor or psychologist, or someone at a specialist helpline. Your GP surgery will have information about these.

Some people find it helpful to talk to other people who have mouth cancer, either at a local support group or on an online chat room:

You can also call the Saving Faces helpline on 07792 357972 (9am to 5pm) to speak to a member of staff who will be able to put you in touch with other people who've had the same treatment as you. Alternatively, you can contact them by email:

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Caring for someone with mouth cancer

If you're caring for someone with mouth cancer, it's important to look after yourself and get as much help as possible. You may need a break from caring if you're feeling down and finding it difficult to cope.

Read more about carers' breaks and respite care.

Your guide to care and support has a lot of useful information and advice about different sources of support. You can also call the Carers Direct helpline on 0300 123 1053.

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