Keeping diagnosis private at work


I told HR and my line manager about my diagnosis earlier this month, as I will need to take time off for scans, surgery (possibly several rounds: because of my type of cancer I might end up with positive margins, and then resection/mastectomy), and probably radiotherapy.

They were not very pleased and since then have been trying to imply, either that it was a preexisting condition and that I hid from them that I had breast cancer when I was hired, or that I was ‘faking’ (you know, I just woke up and decided it would be fun to have a mastectomy). I also get comments in the line of ‘with all your problems you are not going to be able to concentrate’ and ‘I think you should take some time off’. Problem is, I am single and renting (and my landlord doesn’t accept housing benefits), with no one to support me financially (not even parents or uncles or aunts) so I need to continue earning. I don’t want a gap in my CV either.

I have had issues with bullying in that company since I was hired, and although I have complained multiple times, HR have always refused to do anything about it: the people who are doing the bullying are family friends of the directors. When I told HR about my diagnosis I asked them to keep it ‘mums’ but they are now saying they ‘need to’ tell it to my colleagues, that if I take time off work to have treatment people will need an explanation (ah! one of the bulliers took 4 1/2 months in 2014 due to mental health issues, her condition was not divulged around the office). They are basically giving me the choice between 1)staying in the company while I get treatment, but they will tell everyone about it; 2)resigning to keep my condition secret. And of course, as far as HR are concerned, there is the ‘option’ for me to do nothing, but my GP and oncologist stressed most emphatically that I had to get surgery asap.

I suffered from sciatica in 2013 and 2014, for several months at a time, and my colleagues were absolutely gloating. I was even told I was faking it as 1)I didn’t go on sickness leave; 2)I didn’t want morphine or tramadol; 3)I didn’t want an operation. I can just imagine what they would act like with me having a BC diagnosis: I have already had to put up with the gossip that ‘women who have large breasts but are thin must have breast implants: they’ll get cancer’ and ‘women who have large breasts may think it’s a blessing but they’ll end up with breast cancer’ (I have large breasts - runs in the family!). On Breast Cancer ‘support’ day, they all spend the day gossiping about women they know who they didn’t like and who got BC etc. So I don’t want them to know. I can use the excuse of a back operation to explain my absence during surgery & radiotherapy: they were so keen on me having a back operation anyway!

Is there a law which I can use to ban my employer from disclosing the diagnosis? I really think this is a huge invasion of my privacy and I don’t want to be ‘used’ for their PR stuff, especially considering how little unsupportive they’ve been so far.

Thanks in advance.

Hi Dorsoduro

You do seem to be having a lot to deal with at work which I am sure can’t be helping you cope with your situation.  Could I suggest that you give our helpline team a ring and talk to them about what is happening, they’re here to support you both practically and emotionally through this.  Calls are free from landlines and most mobiles 0808 800 6000 lines open again on Monday morning at 9am - 5pm (weekdays) and 10-2 Saturdays.

I have also put you the link to an article in BCC’s Vita magazine which you might find helpful

Take care,

Jo, Moderator

Hi Dorsoduro

I am so sorry to read of your situation and problems with work.  The Macmillan site has lots of useful information about finances, your rights at work etc.  I’ve attached a link for you:

I do hope you manage to get some information and support.

Very best wishes


BCC Moderator

Hi Everyone

Thank you for highlighting your concern about another user, Dorsoduro.  We really appreciate the care you are all showing towards each other.

As I am sure you can all appreciate we don’t discuss individual users with anyone, but rest assured we have listened to your worries.

Best wishes
Digital Community Officer

hi i to wanted to keep my diagnosis private but my manager asked me what would i say when i lose my hair or couldn,t get to work because of the chemo as i never had tme off think hard before you decide as you are going to need all the support you can get good luck x