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Can You Get Disability for Cancer?

You recently received a cancer diagnosis. You may feeling a lot of emotions right now; fear, uncertainty, frustration. All of this is completely normal and understandable. You may also be wondering if you can get disability for cancer?

First, you MUST file a claim. Nothing happens until you file. You have a choice; file on your own or let an experienced attorney help you. Proper medical records are essential to winning your case. You need to obtain and file objective test results. And your cancer must be on SSA’s official list.

The SSA’s official list consists of 29 different cancers that can be disabling and therefore qualify you for disability benefits. Some types of cancers are obvious causes of extreme physical impairment such as cancers that require bone marrow transplants or malignant melanomas.  Others can be more problematic for qualification. For example, the requirement to meet a Listing for cancers of the female genital tract and male reproductive tracts are very specific. Meeting a Listing for lung cancer tends to key on a diagnosis of non-small cell carcinoma that is unresectable or untreatable, or has grown beyond the hilar nodes; or simply a confirmed diagnosis of oat cell carcinoma.

Keep in mind that you will also need a confirmed diagnosis from an appropriate medical specialist. Medical records that document not just the diagnosis, but BOTH the treatment as well as your response to the treatment will also be necessary. It is best to submit all this quickly and all at the same time.  

Can you get disability for breast cancer?

Can you get disability for breast cancer? The answer is: it depends on which type of breast cancer you have.


Does Applicant…

* indicates required

currently receive disability?
expect to be out of work for 12 months?
have an attorney helping with the case?
receive doctor's treatment in past 6-12 months?

Some of the more common breast cancers do not frequently meet the SSA Listings. In order for you to be eligible for benefits, the rules tend to look for metastasis beyond regional lymph nodes (distant metastasis), metastasis to supraclavicular or infraclavicular nodes, or to 10 or more axillary nodes; a diagnosis of oat cell carcinomas; or inflammatory cancer with direct extension to the chest wall or skin, or extension to the ipsilateral internal mammary nodes.

In many breast cancer cases, early detection and aggressive treatment prevents meeting these SSA listing requirements. HOWEVER, there are exceptions that can mean success in your case, a few examples being;

  • Mastectomy with regional lymph node dissection such that an upper extremity has persistent lymphedema and is essentially useless
  • Prolonged staged reconstruction in excess of 12 months
  • Post-op radiation and severe scarring that destroys the skin flexibility across the chest, severely limiting arm mobility
  • Generalized pain and fatigue
  • Chemo brain
  • Chemotherapy induced peripheral neuropathy

Can you get disability for cancer without a lawyer’s help?

All of these technical medical terms can seem as confusing as a foreign language to a person who isn’t a doctor or a lawyer who practices law focused on getting for disabled people, so it may be a good idea to consult with a person who handles these types of situations on a constant basis. 

Not meeting these Listing criteria does NOT mean your case is bad. It means you may need to have someone who works in law focussed on disability insurance issues to look at your case and work it while keeping a close eye on the SSA’s sequential evaluation process.