October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. According to statistics from the National Breast Cancer Foundation, breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women except for skin cancers. One in eight women in the United States will develop breast cancer during their lifetime.
In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we at Hare Wynn are highlighting the next steps to take after a breast cancer diagnosis and your rights in the workplace.
Choosing a Care Team
You will work with a team of cancer specialists. Your healthcare team may include:
- A medical oncologist
- A surgical oncologist
- A radiation oncologist
- A care manager/caseworker/nurse navigator or patient navigator
- An oncology nurse
- A registered dietitian
The National Breast Cancer Foundation offers the following guidelines for choosing an oncology team:
- Your team should be knowledgeable.
- They should welcome questions and treat your concerns with respect.
- They should explain treatment options in a way you can understand.
Deciding on a Treatment Plan
Your treatment options depend on the stage of your disease, tumor size, and other factors.
There are five standard treatment options for breast cancer, and most treatment plans include a combination of the following: surgery, radiation, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapies.
Surgical options can include a lumpectomy, partial mastectomy, radical mastectomy, and breast reconstruction. Your doctor may also need to remove and examine lymph nodes to determine whether the cancer has spread and to what extent.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. It affects cells only in the part of the body that is treated with the radiation. Radiation therapy may be used to destroy any remaining mutated cells that remain in the breast or armpit area after surgery.
The pathologist will perform tests on the breast cancer cells to determine if they have receptors that feed on estrogen or progesterone, stimulating their growth. If the cancer cells have these receptors, your doctor may recommend hormone therapy drugs, such as blockers or inhibitors. Both types of drugs help to destroy cancer cells by cutting off their supply of hormones.
Chemotherapy uses a combination of drugs to either destroy cancer cells or slow down the growth of cancer cells. Chemotherapy is commonly prescribed along with other treatment methods such as hormonal and targeted therapies. It can also be used to shrink a tumor before surgery for easier and safer removal.
Targeted therapies are newer treatments that can attack specific breast cancer cells without harming normal cells. Currently, these targeted methods are commonly used in combination with traditional chemotherapy. Targeted drugs often have less severe side effects.
Accommodations for Breast Cancer at Work
It’s likely you’ll need to take time off work due to cancer treatment. Additionally, cancer treatments can reduce immune function and cause nausea and fatigue. This could make certain job duties difficult.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to enable applicants and employees with disabilities to enjoy equal employment opportunities unless doing so would be an undue hardship. The law applies to employers with 15 or more employees.
Here is how the ADA defines a disability:
- You have a physical or mental problem that substantially limits one or more of your major life activities
- There is a record of you having had such a problem in the past.
- Other people think you have such a problem, even if you don’t actually have it.
EEOC guidance explains that under the ADA Amendments Act which went into effect in 2009, people who currently have cancer or have cancer that is in remission should easily meet the criteria of having a disability. People with a history of cancer would qualify under the second part of the definition.
Accommodations might be needed because of cancer, side effects of treatment, or both. Examples of accommodations for employees with breast cancer include:
- Leave for doctors’ appointments and/or to seek or recuperate from treatment
- Periodic breaks or a private area to rest or to take medication
- Modified work schedule or shift change
- Permission to work at home
To request accommodation, you simply need to tell your employer you need a change or adjustment because of cancer. Your employer can ask you for reasonable documentation, for example, a doctor’s note explaining the time you’ll need off work due to cancer treatment.
Call Our Birmingham Employment Dispute Attorneys
Our business litigation attorneys have extensive experience dealing with employment disputes. If you were unfairly denied leave or accommodations, or were the victim of retaliation, we can help. Contact us at 800-568-5330 or use our online contact form to schedule a free case evaluation.
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