I struggle with the exact question (or at least will have to face it near in the future) that was asked here: Do I need to mention having survived a life-threatening illness when applying for a new academic position?

When I was a kid, I had a cancer. Now I work at the university as a research assistant and I'm on my way to a PhD. After finishing my PhD, I would love to apply for a post doc, preferably in Sweden, Iceland or Norway (but my advisor suggests US or Australia, so I'm not sure where exactly I'm going to go).

There is a serious possibility that I will have a reoccurrence in few years (talked with my oncologist many many times about it), or will not have, nobody could tell that, but there is a strong possibility.

At my current university (middle Europe) it was not a problem, I wasn't obliged to mention it to anybody, however, I informed my employer about my illness. My previous condition is almost not relevant today, however, I do have days when I do not feel good and just want to rest and sleep (but have to go to the University anyway, and of course, I go).

So, with my condition, is it possible to find a university and apply to post doc or not? And another, not less important: do I need to mention about my health when applying for a post doc position?

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    If your condition is manageable i.e. neither your condition nor the treatment plan for your condition will seriously interfere with the discharge of your duties, then your health is your problem and you don't need to tell anyone. If your condtion and the treatment plan for your condition will interfere with the timely discharge of your duties, then your health is someone else's problem, too, and you'll need to disclose it so that they can plan around you if need be. Assuming that the good will toward you is there, that is. Dec 21, 2014 at 12:31
  • If you expect that your health will turn for the worse and that your ability to discharge your duties will be severely impacted, you might be better off postponing going for the post doc until your health has improved to a level where you can discharge your duties. Getting very sick as a post doc and that sickness being a surprise to everyone around you could be an exercise in burning bridges for you. Dec 21, 2014 at 12:35
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    Whatever you do, make very sure that you will be able to get suitable healthcare. Applying for a postdoc is a time you're unusually likely to end up moving, and local rules can be very sensitive to details (as a postdoc in Quebec, I did not have the full advantages of being either a student or a worker, so had less in the way of healthcare than pretty much anyone else around the university).
    – Jessica B
    Dec 21, 2014 at 18:50
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    I second Jessica B. In Sweden, for example, some post-doctoral scholarships do not include access to the excellent Swedish social security and health care system.
    – L Platts
    Dec 27, 2014 at 0:10

2 Answers 2


Serious health problems can strike anybody at any time. You know that you have a much higher than background risk of having your condition return, but you also have a pretty good chance of getting into a serious traffic accident or having a parent come down with a serious illness or getting hit by major depression or any of the myriad other ways that your ability to do your work can become impaired. No sane organization expects its employees to be in a protective bubble where bad things cannot happen to them.

If you can do your work effectively now, and don't have a known crisis expected in the near future, then the only sensible thing to do is to carry on with life. You don't need to inform potential employers, any more than you would need to tell them that you might get into a traffic accident because you commute. As noted in the comments, though, you definitely do need to make sure you have good access to health care that will cover your condition if it recurs.


Let me put in a cautionary note about a potential problem that could arise. When I applied for my position in Germany, I was required to submit a Gesundheitszeugnis (health certificate) that was signed by an authorized doctor registered with the German embassy. I do not know how a diagnosis of cancer will play out in such circumstances.

However, if you are an EU citizen, this may very well not apply to you, because you will be able to relocate from one EU country to another through "freedom of movement."

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    I know of 3 reasons for Gesundheitszeugnis (or also Betriebsärztliche Untersuchung - which I had to do whereever in the EU I was working): 1) show you are fit for the job (e.g. no blind bus drivers), 2) detect whetere there are conditions that need closer monitoring in your work settings (e.g. skin trouble and working in lab gloves) 3) If e.g. you work with medical samples and get diagnosed with hepatitis, your employer's insurance is responsible. Thus they (require the employer to) make sure you didn't have it before and ask them to pay for something they aren't responsible for. Mar 10, 2015 at 14:10

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