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Penile Cancer

Work and finances

Being treated for penile cancer usually means spending some time in hospital. Working men will need some time away from their job both for the treatment itself and a period of recovery afterwards where their wounds heal and they adjust to the changes in their body. During this period, it may also be difficult to continue with other activities, such as hobbies, family events and voluntary work.

Some of the men we spoke to talked of having lower levels of energy compared to before they had treatment. This lack of energy affected what they could do afterwards.
 

Tim was told that he would be painting the house 2 weeks after the operation but it was 3 months...

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Age at interview: 54
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 53
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What struck me and I hadn’t been prepared for was just how much energy it drained from me. That it took me, you know the nurses and the consultant, or the doctors had been saying, and always looking on the bright side I think, think ‘oh you’ll be out, you’ll be painting the house in two weeks’ time. Well it was, it was three months before I was, felt able to get back to work. So, and there were a couple of family events in between that I needed quite a lot of help to get to' my daughter had a graduation ceremony at the end of January, and I was able to get to it, but I needed my brother to come – I needed someone else to drive us down there and I needed to rest before and immediately afterwards, and go through it at half pace, so... And then, let us see, I was back to work after about three months, and I’ve probably – I was going back part-time to start with. I went back in March and probably only now, about a year later, am I feeling that I’ve got back to my pre-work level of energy at work – pre-operational level of energy there, so… It’s been about, yeh - so it’s been a long go. It’s been quite an interesting time [chuckles], but learnt a lot about –learnt a lot about people on the way.

 

Jordan says he doesn’t have the physical strength he once had but he has more energy than 6...

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Age at interview: 58
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 57
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I’ve been very active. Work’s been very difficult over the last few years anyway with the recession so, we have struggled. We’ve just bought an internet business which we’re trying to develop so I can work from home because I, I don’t have the physical strength I had anyway. So we’re sort of heading in that direction and seeing how that goes. But I think I’ve got more energy than I had 6 months ago which can only be good.

Did the process cause any problems with your finances?

Not the process but just the, my general state of health, that I’ve not been able to work physically so, or... yeah I... To be fair I was running out of energy part way through the day. I couldn’t decide whether that was just my age or, or whatever but I’ve always been very physical, done lots of building work and you know, work around the farm except for the last couple of years.
 

Many of the men we interviewed were of working age and therefore had to manage their illness alongside work commitments. A supportive employer can make a big difference to how a patient experiences recovery. By providing support and reassurance about job security, an employer can remove a great deal of stress and help provide stability during recovery. In Britain employed people who are too ill to work are entitled to basic statutory sick pay for up to 28 weeks. Some employers have their own sick pay scheme and several people had been paid their full salary during their absence from work, which allowed them to recover without overwhelming money worries. Employed people whose sick leave continues beyond the 28-week limit for statutory sick pay can claim Employment and Support Allowance (formerly Incapacity Benefit). Unemployed and self-employed people who have paid appropriate National Insurance contributions can also claim this. Those whose illness means they cannot look after themselves can claim Personal Independence Payment (if aged under 65) or Attendance Allowance (after age 65); there are different rates depending on the level of disability.
 

Les’s employers were understanding when he told them about his daily radiotherapy treatments:...

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Age at interview: 55
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 41
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I told yeh work, every, work had to know about it because of these treatments. I was going to be sort of going away from work every day for these treatments. And they were really good because they’d just say well, just ‘don’t bother coming in. Just you go and get your treatments done and.’ So they were quite understanding about it. The said don’t start, because it was only like going for, you know there for sort of twenty minutes while you get the shot done. But they said basically ‘don’t bother coming in, you’ve got enough on your plate.’ So they were quite understanding work, friends, family. So, sort of everybody knew about it, I thought well there’s no use hiding it, it’s out there, and I was quite surprised that, that there was this thing called penile cancer and, at the time I think I just wanted to jump on this crusade of en..., you know, enlightening people that, you know this thing exists, watch it! [laughs] yeh.

Well I’m quite fortunate that you know I got paid on the sick and stuff like that so from that side of it I was ok. But it was a matter of how long I was going to be off, they’d pay me full pay for so long, but as I say fortunately I was ok. And also with a diagnosis like cancers and like heart attacks, major stuff, things like that I’ve seen at work, where they pay them indefinitely, they’re pretty good.
 

 

Tim received sick pay during a 3 month absence from work for his operation but lost his usual...

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Age at interview: 54
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 53
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I was lucky because I’ve got a, there’s a sick scheme at work, so I was off on, I was off on full pay for those three months. And I’ve since discovered that I was only actually entitled to two months pre-pay and the next month was optional, but I think because I’d been open with them and they knew how serious the operation was, they were quite happy to carry on paying me. There was, so I mean that I normally do overtime and get another sort of 15 or 20% of my pay in overtime, which I wasn’t able to do, so, I did lose that. But it we’re – but of course the upside was I wasn’t able to go out and spend money in that time so I think it probably balanced out.

Other men were not so fortunate and didn’t receive all their usual income. Some companies didn’t provide sick pay or those who were self-employed couldn’t afford to continue with their business. The men we interviewed had a number of ways of managing the reduction in their income, including changing from being self-employed to employed, moving to a smaller house, and using holiday allowances for time away from work instead of taking sick leave. Macmillan Cancer Support can offer grants towards everyday living expenses for people on low incomes.
 

Mark felt that his boss was on his side but his company didn’t offer sick pay. Statutory sick pay...

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Age at interview: 48
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 46
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Well work had been very good. I’d spoken to my area manager and didn’t tell him the full details but said that I’m going to need a succession of operation, I’m going to be off work a long time. And he’d given me the green light to go ahead and get that done. So that wasn’t a concern. But even if he hadn’t have done then I would have still gone ahead- it would have had to be done. But it was just nice to have somebody on your side and helping you. So work was... work was dealt with. The company that I worked for when I went into hospital was different to the company that I worked for when I came out, because the company was bought out. Which was a bit of a concern because I didn’t know any of the new people in high places at the new company and this and that. But that all sorted itself out.

Money-wise was a huge problem. The company I work for I don’t get any sick pay. So I was on SSP [Statutory Sick Pay], which is £60 a week I think, which doesn’t pay for anything. It doesn’t pay my outgoings. It doesn’t do… So I was in a bit of a, I was in a bit of a mess financially but I made one or two phone calls and I think if you’re straight with people. And they… you know there are some people that are understanding to your problems. I borrowed a bit, borrowed some off my family. And but again that was, it was always, it was stressed to me… at nearly every point that I needed to be free of worry. Don’t have any worry, don’t have any anxiety.
 

 

Simon had been self employed and didn’t have sickness insurance, so he closed his company, moved...

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Age at interview: 65
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 63
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You know when I first started I was self employed, I had a garage of my own, a business, which I had to let go because you can’t be self employed and be ill, so I had to pack that in, which, which I loved, and get a job. You know, which is, I still don’t get sick pay where I work now but at least, you know you see when I had all these operations I, I used my holidays because, because I didn’t get sick pay, I mean you’ve still to live haven’t you know even if you’re ill. You know that’s a problem for anybody I think that’s ill... managing off what money you can get. And like I’d, I think both them operations I had I had to use my holidays, cancel my holidays and use my holiday entitlement so that I could get the operation. Because there were no healthcare, no health insurance where I worked you know, even though it’s a massive power station there’s no health care or owt like that.

So the financial side….?

Oh, there’s a big financial side to it, yeh, yeh. You know you’ve, you like just stop straight away, you’ve still VAT to pay and I had to wind my business up and accountants and this and that off money what I’d managed to save which I haven’t got now, like. We had to get a smaller, we had to get a smaller house and, we had quite a big house before and we had to get a smaller house and manage, you know.
 

For some men however, the impact of treatment on work and finances was limited. While there are some younger men with penile cancer, most are close to pensionable age so may have reduced their working hours or retired. For example, Paul was retired and able to manage financially on his occupational pension. Retired or working, some of the men we interviewed found that there were other things happening in their life that were of much greater concern, such as the death of someone in the family.
 

Jim feels that his concentration at work was clouded by the death of his son, and that his own...

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Age at interview: 60
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 58
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I would say that my concentration with work has been a little bit sort of clouded with the fact that my son had passed away the previous year and it’s difficult to be able to say whe... you know whether…. it’s a mixture of the two things or the one thing. Certainly with my son passing that’s affected my workload my work ability. And this operation I think has probably not affected my working ability that much. So financially I would say that…. probably not much.

 

Tom needed some time away from running the family business but, as a semi-retired man, he enjoyed...

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Age at interview: 71
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 69
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Yes, it’d, any, anything impacts on it but it’s not a singular business that I’m involved in it’s a limited company run by the family – my wife is effectively the head of it anyway, and therefore me being absent takes a pair of hands out of it but since I’m pretending to be partly retired anyway, very unsuccessfully, but partly, it did force me to have a little bit of time off and give me if anything a bit more time for showing my flowers than I would have had under normal circumstances. So yes it did have, it did impact itself on work but in my personal point of view perhaps a good way.

Having a condition such as penile cancer can have other financial implications. As penile cancer is treated in specialist regional centres, many men will need to travel long distances for appointments. Meeting the costs of this travel could be a problem. Michael said that although he had to pay the cost of petrol to get to his daily radiotherapy appointments, he was given free parking. John took advantage of a local volunteer driver service to get to his daily radiotherapy appointments, and only had to pay for the petrol. Some men used hospital transport, which is free. Patients on low incomes can get help with the travel costs associated with NHS treatment by asking at the hospital for refund form HC5.
 
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John says taxi journeys to the hospital were expensive but a local volunteer driver service helped.

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Age at interview: 75
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 74
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Have there been any other financial implications of your diagnosis?

I told you- the cost of taxis. And that is scary because some people who were have... having treatment and I thought gosh if they have to come down to [city] every time I don’t know how they do it unless they’re on private, you know. And it really was very expensive until I had the support taxi and then the support taxi took over from…. they couldn’t provide transport at a minute’s notice so I did use the an ordinary taxi on one other occasion. But yeah the cost of taxis. In terms of my daily life I’m not working. I’m retired and… no… it hasn’t affected my me. It’s affected me financially. I’m used to quite a bit of money. But the money… is there, you know. And when it’s gone [laughs]. Well when it gone when it’s gone I’ve got my house, you know, and so I really am not concerned about the financial side. I can understand being desperately concerned about it, yeah.
 

Additionally, items such as travel and health insurance will increase in price. Macmillan can supply details of insurance companies that will offer insurance to people who have had cancer.
 

After declaring his cancer diagnosis, Rodger found that the cost of travel insurance soared.

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Age at interview: 65
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 63
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The only thing that it does effect is… you probably wouldn’t know this but if you were going on holiday and you need insurance as soon as you mention ‘cancer’ the premiums go up, whether it’s terminal or not, as soon as the word’s mentioned they ask you all the questions – ‘when did you last go to the doctor’s?’ and the premiums go up and that’s the only effect it has on your life [hesitation] from the point of view of carrying on. It has a cost implication that you would never really think about at the time. Everybody thinks about ‘I want to live’ but then they say ‘oh I’ll go on holiday’ and then you think ‘oh that’s cost me, the insurance has cost me nearly as much as the holiday’ and at the end it’s a big thing. I suppose a lot of cancer patients – especially with conditions worse than mine will find it very difficult to actually get an holiday because they’re probably not working, probably not retired there’s several other things that you’ve got to look at from their point of view as well as my point of view but the point of insurance on your life is an important factor when it comes to continuing your lifestyle as it originally was. I mean if you went on holiday tomorrow you’d just go down to the holiday place, book it, take out an insurance, end of conversation. I go down, I book it and then I think ‘how, how much is it going to cost me on the insurance?’ We went to Canada to see my son six months after and the price of the insurance was nearly as much as the air fare just because I’d had a problem. At the stage, at the time I was at, no problem with me, it was just that you’d been a cancer patient and as far as they’re concerned it’s an added cost to them because obviously if anything did happen while you’re away and you didn’t disclose it, it would be a problem for your family to get you back or whatever, or treatment or whatever… So that’s the only thing in life that’s sort of slowed up a bit is actually picking a holiday (laughs).

For help with sick pay, benefits and financial hardship see our 'practical matters' resources or GOV.UK..

Last reviewed July 2017.
Last updated January 2015.
 

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