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Accommodation and Compliance: Cancer

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About Cancer

Cancer develops when cells in a part of the body begin to grow out of control. Although there are many kinds of cancer, they all start because of out-of-control growth of abnormal cells. Normal body cells grow, divide, and die in an orderly fashion. During the early years of a person's life, normal cells divide more rapidly until the person becomes an adult. After that, cells in most parts of the body divide only to replace worn-out or dying cells and to repair injuries. Because cancer cells continue to grow and divide, they are different from normal cells. Instead of dying, they outlive normal cells and continue to form new abnormal cells. Cancer cells often travel to other parts of the body where they begin to grow and replace normal tissue. This process, called metastasis, occurs as the cancer cells get into the bloodstream or lymph vessels of our body. Treatment options may include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy. 

Some generalized symptoms and signs such as unexplained weight loss, fever, fatigue, or lumps may be seen in several types of cancer; however, other signs and symptoms are relatively specific to a particular type of cancer. Staging is the process of finding out how much cancer there is in the body and where it is located. Doctors use this information to plan treatment and to help determine a person's outlook (prognosis). Cancers with the same stage usually have similar outlooks and are often treated the same way. Staging is also a way doctors can communicate with each other about a person's case. For most cancers, the stage is based on three main factors: the original (primary) tumor's size and whether the tumor has grown into other nearby areas, whether the cancer has spread to the nearby lymph nodes, and whether the cancer has spread to distant areas of the body. 

Cancer and the Americans with Disabilities Act

The ADA does not contain a definitive list of medical conditions that constitute disabilities. Instead, the ADA defines a person with a disability as someone who (1) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more "major life activities," (2) has a record of such an impairment, or (3) is regarded as having such an impairment. For more information about how to determine whether a person has a disability under the ADA, see How to Determine Whether a Person Has a Disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA).

Accommodating Employees with Cancer

People with cancer may develop some of the limitations discussed below, but seldom develop all of them. Also, the degree of limitation will vary among individuals. Be aware that not all people will need accommodations to perform their jobs and many others may only need a few accommodations. The following is only a sample of the possibilities available. Numerous other accommodation solutions may exist.

Questions to Consider:

  1. What limitations is the employee experiencing?
  2. How do these limitations affect the employee and the employee’s job performance?
  3. What specific job tasks are problematic as a result of these limitations?
  4. What accommodations are available to reduce or eliminate these problems? Are all possible resources being used to determine possible accommodations?
  5. Once accommodations are in place, would it be useful to meet with the employee to evaluate the effectiveness of the accommodations and to determine whether additional accommodations are needed?
  6. Do supervisory personnel and employees need training?

Accommodation Ideas:

Situations and Solutions:

The following situations and solutions are real-life examples of accommodations that were made by JAN customers. Because accommodations are made on a case-by-case basis, these examples may not be effective for every workplace but give you an idea about the types of accommodations that are possible.

Events Regarding Cancer

Other Information Regarding Cancer


Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure
American Bladder Cancer Society
American Breast Cancer Foundation
American Cancer Society
American Chronic Pain Association
American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine (ACRM)
American Institute for Cancer Research
Army of Women
Bite Me Cancer
Blood Marrow Foundation
Breast Cancer Research Foundation
Cancer and Careers
Cancer Care
Cancer Legal Resource Center
Cancer Support Community
CancerCare, Inc.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Colon Cancer Alliance
Foundation for Women's Cancer
Job Accommodation Network
Kidney Cancer Association
Livestrong Foundation
Living Beyond Breast Cancer
Lymphoma Research Foundation
Male Cancer Awareness Campaign
Mayo Clinic
Movember Foundation
National Blood Clot Alliance
National Bone Marrow Transplant Link
National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc.
National Cancer Institute
National Center for Biotechnology Information
National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship
National Foundation for Cancer Research
National Human Genome Research Institute
National Institute on Aging
National Kidney Foundation
National Organization for Rare Disorders
Office of Disability Employment Policy
Office on Women's Health
Orchid: Fighting Male Cancer
Prevent Cancer Foundation
Remedy's Health Communites
Stand Up to Cancer
Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation
The Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy
Triage Cancer
United Cancer Assistance Network
World Health Organization