Cancer and SSD

To anyone who has lost a loved one or faced a diagnosis themselves, “cancer” is one of the most insidious words there is. A disease that occurs when cells in the body begin to uncontrollably divide, cancer can destroy healthy body tissue and rapidly spread throughout the body, potentially impacting the ability of body parts, like the lungs, blood vessels, and even bones, to perform their essential duties.

Cancer Causes and Types

Since it has such a destabilizing impact on critical body functions, cancer is often a life-threatening disease. In 2016, there were an estimated 1,685,210 people diagnosed with cancer in the United States, leading to 595,680 deaths. Cancer’s victims come from all walks of life, and it indiscriminately affects people across all ages, races, genders, and backgrounds. However, certain factors can increase a person’s risk, including:

  • Lifestyle habits, particularly heavy smoking
  • Chronic health conditions, like ulcerative colitis
  • Family history of cancer
  • Environmental conditions, like living in a home with a heavy smoker or working around cancer-causing materials, called carcinogens

Cancer can impact essentially any part of the body, from the eyes to the reproductive organs. Some of the most commonly diagnosed types of cancer are:

  • Breasts
  • Lungs and bronchus
  • Prostate
  • Colon and rectum
  • Bladder
  • Skin (melanoma)
  • Thyroid
  • Blood (leukemia)
  • Lymphatic system (Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma)

Some types of cancer, especially when identified and treated in their early stages, have a higher survival rate. Melanoma, for example, has about a 99% five-year survival rate when detected in its early stages. On the other hand, an aggressive form of cancer like glioblastoma, which impacts the brain, only has a five-year survival rate of 4%.

How Cancer Affects Daily Life

Regardless of survival rate, all types of cancers can lead to painful and debilitating symptoms, such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Persistent cough or breathing problems
  • Difficulty with swallowing
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Fever and night sweats
  • Unexplained bleeding or bruising

Additionally, chemotherapy—a common cancer treatment that kills the cancerous cells—can lead to intense side effects, including nausea and vomiting, dramatic weight loss, fatigue, and susceptibility to infections.

Due to these symptoms and side-effects, cancer can have an everyday impact on a person’s life. As they battle the disease, many people find themselves unable to keep up with daily tasks. So why can it be so difficult for people with cancer to qualify for Social Security Disability?

Cancer and SSD

While a diagnosis can be life-changing, cancer alone is not always enough to qualify someone for Social Security Disability (SSD). For a condition to qualify for SSD, it must last at least 12 months, be expected to last for at least 12 months, or expected to end in death. This means that if a type of cancer is easily treated or controlled through chemotherapy or surgery, it might not be enough to qualify someone for SSD. For cancer to qualify someone for SSD, it generally has to be inoperable, recurrent even after treatment, or have spread to other parts of the body.

That said, there are certain types of cancer that might be severe enough to qualify someone for SSD. These include metastatic brain or spinal cord carcinoma, inflammatory breast cancer, and mesothelioma of the pleura. If a cancer is particularly aggressive or has a high fatality rate, it is more likely to qualify someone for SSD.

Seeking Help

For someone to show that their cancer is severe enough to qualify for SSD benefits, they must have proof of their diagnoses and symptoms, such as lab reports, doctor testimony, and X-rays or CT scans. They must prove that their cancer affects their ability to perform any kind of work. This means that if someone is unable to work at their construction job due to weakness but can still perform a desk job, they still might not qualify for SSD.

SSD is a complex process and when someone is dealing with their own cancer symptoms or the diagnoses of a loved one, it can be incredibly challenging. If you are struggling with the next steps after a cancer diagnoses, consider talking to an experience SSD attorney who can see you through this process.


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.

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