Cancer can affect virtually every organ and system in the body. No other disorder is more universally feared among the general population. Despite astounding advances in treatment, it remains a serious and potentially life threatening disease.
A diagnosis of cancer, in and of itself, is usually not enough to warrant an award of disability benefits. However, many victims of cancer can and do qualify for benefits based on the severity of their disease or the symptoms it produces.
All types of cancer are evaluated essentially the same way for disability purposes. Determining the level of disability requires consideration of (1) the site of the primary tumor or lesion; (2) the histogenesis of the tumor; (3) the extent to which the tumor has involved the primary site or spread to other sites; (4) whether or not the condition has responded to treatment; and (5) the side-effects of such treatment.
Pain, fatigue, impaired body function and other
cancer can also provide the basis for a finding of disability. People
with cancer, including cancer survivors, frequently experience
significant depression or anxiety that may warrant an award of
disability benefits. And the recurrence or spread of cancer
after treatment is almost always disabling.
Social Security usually does a good job evaluating
severe cancer cases. Most people whose cancer is untreatable, or whose cancer has spread following treatment, will be awarded disability benefits without much trouble.
On the other hand, people whose cancer is not so
severe frequently have difficulty establishing their disability
claims, no matter how serious their symptoms may be. Many
of these people face the prospect of long and difficult lives. Few
would deny that they are as deserving of disability benefits
as their less fortunate counterparts, yet theirs are the
most commonly encountered cancer cases in any disability law
practice. These claims require careful development by
a knowledgeable attorney to be successful.