Lung cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in the United States—and the leading cause of cancer deaths. The other forms of cancer that are more common—breast cancer for women, prostate cancer for men, and skin cancers—all have much better survival rates. Statistics show that over a quarter of all cancer deaths each year are due to various types of lung cancer.
Lung cancer is highly correlated with smoking. That doesn’t mean that only smokers get lung cancer, but it’s much less common for a nonsmoker to develop the disease. Lung cancer was not a major disease until the late 1800s, when cigarette smoking became a common habit. Today, a few varieties of lung cancer, such as mesothelioma, are not closely linked to smoking.
Lung Cancer and Disability
Doctors divide lung cancer cases into two broad types. Small cell lung cancers tend to be highly aggressive, invasive diseases. Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) often develops more slowly, which means it may be more developed when diagnosed but may permit more treatment options. Over three-quarters of all new lung cancers are NSCLC cases.
Lung cancers can be disabling in two different ways. The typical symptoms of the cancer can be very debilitating, making it impossible for an adult to function effectively in a work environment. Among those symptoms:
- Respiratory difficulties
- Severe, chronic chest pain
The treatment prescribed for lung cancer can itself be disabling. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy can cause weakness and open the body to serious infections. Surgical removal of a lung—or even part of a lung—can mean increased difficulty breathing and loss of stamina.
If a lung cancer patient is so disabled that he cannot reasonably be expected to hold down a job, he may be entitled to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits based on a strong previous work history. There are three routes to qualifying for SSDI for lung cancer:
- Cases of small cell lung cancer can be processed under the Compassionate Allowances program, which speeds the application through the Social Security disability system.
- The Social Security Administration lists certain other cancers that have resisted treatment as disabling impairments. These will qualify almost automatically as long as medical records show the condition meets the standards.
- Even if the earlier criteria aren’t met, a patient can submit medical evidence showing the level of his impairment. If his ability to do productive work (“residual functional capacity” is the Social Security Administration term) is low enough, he can get benefits.
You Don’t Have to Fight Cancer and Battle the Social Security Administration at the Same Time
If you are a lung cancer patient, you do not have to wait to see if your cancer is untreatable to get disability income benefits. You can seek SSDI payments for lung cancer even while you are undergoing treatment, if you are legitimately not able to work.
The sad fact is that most SSDI applicants are not approved when they apply. Our Social Security disability lawyers in Harrisburg may be able to help with that. We have a solid record at Schmidt Kramer in getting favorable outcomes for our clients, both for initial SSDI applications and for appeals of negative decisions. If you want to learn what we can do for you, call our Harrisburg office at 717-888-8888 or (717) 888-8888 toll-free to schedule a free, confidential case review.