School and chemotherapy

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Some children and adolescents are able to go back to school while receiving cancer treatment. Find out what risks you need to be aware of when going back to school and how to manage if you know you will be missing class.

Key points

  • While you are in the hospital, you will see a teacher who works there who will help you keep up with your studies.
  • When going back to school it is normal to feel nervous, but remember that you only need to tell people what you are comfortable sharing, and nothing else.
  • Avoiding infection is the most important thing when you go back to school; tell your health-care team if you hear of a chickenpox infection or other outbreak at school.
  • If you know you will be missing several days of school, ask your teacher for readings and assignments so you do not miss too much.

When you are first diagnosed with cancer, you may miss a lot of school. A teacher who works in the hospital will come see you (unless you’re feeling too sick) and help you keep up with your studies. Eventually, you will be going home – and back to your regular school. This might make you nervous.

You may be worried about how others will react to your change in appearance. It is hard to hide some side effects of cancer medications, so being honest about what happened may take away some the pressure of trying to keep it a secret. But that doesn’t mean you have to tell your school mates everything. Do what makes you comfortable. Check out the section on communication for more information.

The biggest risk you face when going to school while receiving treatment is infection. It’s important that you wash your hands well at school, especially before touching your face or eating. Stay away from friends who are sick if you can.


If you hear of a chickenpox infection or other outbreak in your school, always tell your health-care team.

Sometimes, you may have to take time off school while you get your chemotherapy treatments. Telling your teacher what is happening will help make school more accommodating for you. You can plan ahead for when you know you will have to leave and ask the teacher what will be taught those days. Maybe the teacher can give you the readings and assignments a few days early so that you can work on them at home or even at the clinic. Your health-care team is a great resource to help you co-ordinate with school on how to get all your work done.

Last updated: September 3rd 2019