How do I explain breast cancer treatment on my cv: ask the expert

I had to leave my last job as I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Although I am still in active treatment I will be hoping to apply for jobs after Christmas. I cannot seem to find any advice on filling out application forms to explain my illness in a ‘positive’ light. I wonder if you can help me?

Strictly speaking, employers aren’t supposed to discriminate against candidates on health grounds – they’d be breaking the disability discrimination laws. Sadly, they sometimes do.

Many employers do not include a Medical section on their Application Forms and make their decisions on employment without this information. When they subsequently ask the recruited person for this medical information, they use it to ensure that staff member’s health and safety (eg to put into place necessary adaptations to the working environment). Public sector organisations and large corporate employers tend to be particularly careful to avoid unfairness in recruitment. You might like to direct your job search towards organisations like these.

Around one in nine women suffer from breast cancer at some stage in their lives and it’s normally one of the cancers with the best treatment outcomes. It’s likely the recruiter will know a family member or friend who’s been through breast cancer and is now perfectly fit and healthy. Employers may be less concerned than you think about your health record.

The wording “treated for breast cancer (date), all clear given (date)” might be a good way of dealing with the subject.

Good luck with your job applications. I hope you track down a job that really suits you.

*Linda Whittern is Director of Careers Partnership (UK), a careers consultancy for women and men at all stages of their careers.

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