Workplace Training and Services

Most survivors of childhood cancer have productive careers as adults.

But some childhood cancers and treatments can result in emotional and physical limitations. Those limitations may affect a survivor’s job possibilities – from the choice of career to the hours worked.

In some cases, survivors may need additional training and vocational rehabilitation services to complete their education or to find or keep steady employment.  

Two hands typing on a computer keyboard.

Some childhood cancers and treatments can result in emotional and physical limitations, which may have an impact in the workplace.

Problems That May Occur

Work-related problems may not appear until years after therapy is completed. Common problems include:

  • Difficulty writing by hand
  • Challenges with spelling, reading, and math
  • Limited memory
  • Limited attention span
  • Limited vocabulary
  • Trouble concentrating on projects
  • Trouble completing tasks in a timely manner
  • Difficulty completing assignments that require multiple steps
  • Problems relating to organization and planning
  • Difficulty with social situations
  • Hearing and vision difficulties

What Survivors Can Do

Survivors have resources to help with employment issues.

  1. Vocational rehabilitation programs train people with disabilities for employment. All 50 states offer these services.

    To qualify for services, one must have proof that a disability interferes with getting or keeping a job. A history of cancer treatment alone may not qualify. Documentation could include:

    Rehabilitation Plan

    A rehabilitation counselor will serve as an advocate and job coach. The survivor and counselor will work together to develop a rehabilitation plan including:

    • A work evaluation
    • Training
    • Resume development
    • Interview skills and job search coaching
    • Other services designed to lead to employment

    In addition, survivors who qualify for vocational rehabilitation can apply for educational financial aid. This aid can help with tuition, room and board, transportation expenses, books, and supplies.

  2. Adults with disabilities who are unable to work may get financial support from the federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. In many states, SSI recipients automatically qualify for health insurance through Medicaid.

    Turning 18 brings changes in disability benefits. About 1 in 3 children who receive SSI benefits will lose them because the government evaluates needs for children and adults differently.

    However, some young adults who were not eligible as children (usually due to the financial resources of their parents) will qualify for disability benefits at 18.

    The Social Security Administration (which operates SSI) considers people 18 and older to be a household of 1 when determining financial eligibility – even if the person lives at home with parents. Applicants must meet the adult definition of disability.

    To learn more about SSI, call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 or visit a local Social Security office. A social worker at the pediatric cancer center can usually help with applying for benefits.

Help With Finding and Keeping Employment

The website Cancer and Careers has many free resources for cancer survivors who are looking for employment, along with other workplace tools. Services include a resume review program and professional development “micro-grants.” These “micro-grants” provide funding for any type of course, training, conference, or coaching needed for a cancer survivor to advance in or keep his/her current job, shift jobs, or look for a new opportunity.

Reviewed: June 2018