LUNG CANCER DISABILITY BENEFITS
WHAT IS LUNG CANCER?
Lung cancer is the third most common form of cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, it is the main cause of cancer deaths in the United States. It is also the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide.
Your right lung is divided into three sections. Each section is called a lobe. Your left lung only has two lobes. The reason the left lung only has two lobes is that there isn’t room for three lobes, because the heart takes up more room on the left side of the body.
Lunger cancer occurs when your lung cells divide uncontrollably. This out of control division causes tumors to grow.
People who smoke have the greatest risk of lung cancer. However, the disease can also occur in people who have never smoked. Your risk of lung cancer increases with the number of cigarettes and the number of years you have smoked. If you quit smoking, even if you have done so for years, you can reduce your chances of getting lung cancer.
TYPES OF LUNG CANCER
There are two different types of lung cancer: small cell cancer and non-small cell cancer.
Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
There are three types of non-small cell lung cancers. The three types are squamous cell carcinoma, large cell carcinoma, and adenocarcinoma. These types of lung cancers spread more slowly than small cell cancer. They are also more common than small cell cancer. The SSA states that around 87% of lung cancers are non-small cell lung cancers.
Small Cell Lung Cancer
Small cell cancer is a very aggressive from of lung cancer, because it grows quickly. It is also called oat cell lung cancer or oat cell carcinoma.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF LUNG CANCER?
Initially, you may not know you have lung cancer, because at first you will not experience any symptoms. However, once the disease advances, you may experience the following signs and symptoms:
- Chronic cough
- Coughing up blood
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Weight loss
- Bone pain
WHAT CAUSES LUNG CANCER?
Smoking is the cause of most lung cancers. This statistic includes exposure to secondhand smoke. The lungs are sensitive to the carcinogens in smoke. Each time you smoke a cigarette, you damage your lungs. At first, your body can repair the lung damage. But, over time, the lung cells receive so much damage that cancer occurs. Nevertheless, lung cancer also happens to people who have never smoked. It also occurs in people who have never been exposed to secondhand smoke. Sometimes, there is no clear cause of lung cancer.
WHAT ARE THE RISK FACTORS FOR LUNG CANCER?
The American Cancer Society’s projects that there will be 236,740 new cases of lung cancer in the USA in 2022. About 12% of those new lung cancer cases will be among people who have never smoked. Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer of women and it has been that way since 1987. Lung cancer kills almost 1.4 times as many women as breast cancer. Learn more information about disability benefits for breast cancer here.
Obviously, your should do whatever you can to minimize your risk of getting lung cancer. The risk factors for lung cancer include:
- Smoking. Your risk of lung cancer increases with the number of cigarettes you smoke and the number of years you have smoked. If you quit smoking, it will lower your risk of developing lung cancer.
- Exposure to secondhand smoke. Even if you don’t smoke, your risk of lung cancer increases if you’re exposed to secondhand smoke.
- Radiation therapy. If have ever had radiation therapy to the chest for another type of cancer, then you might have a higher risk of developing lung cancer.
- Radon gas. Unsafe levels of radon can be found in buildings, including homes. Make sure your home does not have high levels of radon.
- Asbestos, coal dust, and chemicals. In some workplaces and homes you can be exposed to asbestos, coal dust, and other chemicals. This will increase your risk of getting lung cancer. Read here for more information about coal dust exposure and black lung disability benefits.
- Family history of lung cancer. As with all cancers, if someone in your family has had lung cancer, then you have a higher risk of getting the disease.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO PREVENT LUNG CANCER?
There are many things you can do to prevent lung cancer and most of those involve avoiding cigarettes. If you want to prevent lung cancer, then avoid the following:
- Do not smoke. You know that smoking is the major risk factor for lung cancer. Do not do it.
- Stop smoking. Quit smoking, because it reduces your risk of lung cancer. There are many ways to quit smoking. Ask your doctor about nicotine replacement products.
- Avoid secondhand smoke. Avoid restaurants, bars, or places where other people smoke. If you live with a smoker, ask them to quit or smoke outside of your home.
- Have your home tested for radon. Have the radon levels in your home checked. For information on radon testing, contact your local department of public health or the American Lung Association.
- Avoid toxic chemicals at work. Do what you can to protect yourself from exposure to chemicals at work. Wear a face mask if you work with chemicals, smoke or dust. Use the protective gear given to you by your employer.
DIAGNOSING LUNG CANCER
If you are a smoker and are experiencing symptoms, then you should have your doctor order testing for lung cancer. Testing for lung cancer does not need to be invasive. For example, testing may include:
- X-ray or CT Scan tests. An X-ray can show any abnormal mass or nodule in your lungs. Also, a CT scan can show small lesions in your lungs that may not show up on an X-ray.
- Sputum cytology. If you have a cough and are producing sputum, your doctor can look at the sputum under the microscope to see if there are any lung cancer cells.
- Biopsy. A tissue sample of abnormal cells Your doctor can perform a biopsy and examine a tissue sample from your lungs to see if there are any abnormal cancer cells. A biopsy sample can be taken from your lungs, but it can also be taken from your lymph nodes or other areas where the cancer may have spread.
TREATMENTS FOR LUNG CANCER
If you have cancer that has not spread outside of your lung, then surgery may be a good option for you. Obviously, you should follow the advice of your doctor, but surgery is often done after chemotherapy or radiation shrink any lung tumors. If there’s a risk that cancer cells were left behind after surgery or that your cancer may recur, your doctor will probably recommend chemotherapy or radiation after surgery.
Radiation therapy uses energy beams from sources such as X-rays to kill cancer cells. During radiation therapy, you lie on a table and a machine directs radiation to the precise cancer areas in your body. Radiation therapy may be used before or after surgery. It is often done along with chemotherapy treatments. For advanced lung cancer, radiation therapy may be done to relieve pain.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. The chemotherapy drugs can be given through a vein in your arm. Or, you can take a pill. This type of therapy is often used after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells. It can also be used in combination with radiation therapy. Chemotherapy may also be used before surgery to shrink cancers and make them easier to remove.
TARGETED DRUG THERAPY
Targeted therapy drugs are used to treat lung cancer. These drugs focus on abnormalities that are present within the cancer cells. By blocking these abnormalities, it is possible for the drugs to kill the cancer cells. Most of these drug therapies are done for people with advanced or cancer that has come back.
SSA’S DISABILITY LISTING 13.14 FOR CANCER OF THE LUNGS
In order to win benefits from the SSA, you must prove that your lung cancer meets listing 13.14. Meeting a listing means you are able to show with objective medical evidence that you have one or more of the following criteria:
A. Non-small-cell carcinoma–inoperable, unresectable, recurrent, or metastatic disease to or beyond the hilar nodes.
B. Small-cell (oat cell) carcinoma.
C. Carcinoma of the superior sulcus (including Pancoast tumors) with multimodal anticancer therapy. Consider under a disability until at least 18 months from the date of diagnosis. Thereafter, evaluate any residual impairments under the affected body system.
AN EXPLANATION OF LISTING 13.14
As you can see, there are three types of lung cancer that meet SSA’s disability listing:
- Non-small cell lung cancer that is inoperable. This means that your doctor could not remove all of the cancerous tissue during surgery. The SSA will also state that you meet the listing if your lung cancer spreads to or past your hilar lymph nodes. These lymph notes are where lymphatic vessels, arteries and veins enter the lungs. If your lung cancer spreads beyond the hilar lymph nodes, even if a tumor is removed, you still would meet the listing because your non-small cell lung cancer has spread beyond the lymph nodes.
- Small cell lung cancer.
- Cancer in the superior sulcus. This is cancer that is at the top of the lungs. If you have had more than one type of treatment, such as radiation and surgery, then you will be found disabled for at least 18 months after your cancer diagnosis.
WHAT EVIDENCE DOES THE SSA NEED TO PROVE DISABILITY?
The SSA requires medical evidence that proves the type, extent, and site of the primary, recurrent, or metastatic lesions in your lung cancer. If the primary site of your lung cancer cannot be identified, then the SSA will use evidence documenting the sites of metastasis to evaluate the impairment under SSA listing 13.27.
If you undergo an operation, such as a biopsy, then the SSA will need a copy of both the operative note and the pathology report. The SSA will accept a summary of your hospitalizations or other medical reports, if you cannot get these documents. However, the evidence will need to include details of the surgical and pathological findings. Additionally, the SSA may need evidence about the recurrence, persistence, or progression of your lung cancer. The will also consider your response to therapy and any significant residuals.
In some situations, very serious adverse effects may interrupt and prolong multimodal anticancer therapy for a continuous period of almost 12 months. In these situations, the SSA may determine that your conditions will preclude you from working for at least 12 months. If that is the case, then the SSA will find you meet listing 13.14.
MEDICAL EVIDENCE PROVES YOU SHOULD BE PAID BENEFITS FOR LUNG CANCER
Your doctor’s diagnosis of lung cancer should include the findings of a biopsy of your primary tumor. Also, the findings of the pathologist who examined your tissue samples must be part of your medical records. If your cancer has spread, there should also be documentation of these secondary, metastatic tumors. If you have had any surgeries related to removing cancerous tissue, the surgeon’s notes should be in your record.
This includes any reports from the microscopic exam of any tissue that was removed during surgery. If there is no evidence of your primary lung tumor and any metastases for three or more years, your lung cancer will not meet the criteria under the SSA’s lung cancer listing.
LUNG CANCER & YOUR RESIDUAL FUNCTIONAL CAPACITY
If you lung cancer does not meet or equal a listing, then your RFC can make the difference between winning or losing your benefits. Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) is one of the most important concepts in your disability case. You can use your RFC to prove that you cannot work. So, what is your RFC?
The RFC is the medical assessment of what you can physically and mentally do in a work setting. It is the definition of your functional limitations after taking into account all of your lung cancer symptoms.
In order to figure out your physical RFC when you have lung cancer, the SSA will examine your medical records. They will take into account what your doctor states in your medical records. Also, the SSA will review any statements from your doctors. They will also review records from the SSA consultative examiners.
The SSA will also consider descriptions about your physical limits from your family, neighbors and friends. For example, your family or friends could write a statement about the chronic pain or shortness of breath you experience from lung cancer. Find out more here about RFC and how it combines with age to eliminate work. Also, find out more about SSA’s Medical Vocational Guidelines here.
Your medical records should contain information about your lung cancer. Likewise, your records should also include your diagnosis and document your symptoms. You need to make sure the medical record is complete. But, you also need to make sure your medical records contain an outline of your residual functional capacity.
MEDICAL EVIDENCE PROVING YOU CANNOT WORK DUE TO LUNG CANCER
Since lung cancer is associated with smoking, many people also have other lung diseases from smoking, such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema. These illnesses cause severe shortness of breath, which can limit your ability to function in the workplace. Additionally, if you have had part or all of your lung removed because of lung cancer, then this will have a severe impact on your breathing. The judge should consider this as part of your RFC. Also, the judge should consider any side effects from cancer treatment, such as memory problems or other cognitive issues.
This means your doctor should write down whether or not your lung cancer or your cancer treatments prevent you from lifting, walking, sitting, or carrying. In order to outline your RFC, you should ask you doctor to fill out a form that outlines your limits. Likewise, your doctor can write a letter that talks about your RFC.
The RFC states how much you can lift and how many minutes you can sit at one time before you need to stand up. Also, your doctor should explain how many minutes you can stand at one time before you need to sit down. If you need to lay down during the day, your doctor should include that information. If you have trouble using your hands for fine fingering, because of the effects of chemotherapy, then your doctor can document it. The RFC statement from your doctor will depend upon how your lung cancer impacts you. It is very important, however, for your doctor to discuss your limits in the medical records.
DOES LUNG CANCER QUALIFY AS A COMPASSIONATE ALLOWANCE?
Some medical conditions are so serious that the SSA considers them disabling when you file your application. If the SSA determines that your lung cancer is a compassionate allowance, then they will process your application quickly. These are called “compassionate allowance conditions.” Lung cancer can also spread to your brain an cause tumors there. In that case, please read our article on brain cancer.
Small cell lung cancer is a compassionate allowance condition. If you have small cell lung cancer, the SSA will expedite your application. If your medical records supports the diagnosis, then you will get benefits. Severe cases of non-small cell lung cancer are also a compassionate allowance condition.
WHAT WE DO TO HELP YOU WITH YOUR BENEFITS CASE
There is some good news. You do not need to obtain SSD benefits for lung cancer on your own. Cannon Disability Law can help file your disability application. Also, we can help you file an appeal after every SSA denial. That way, you can focus on your health and living your life. Our attorneys and staff can:
- Send you the paperwork you need to become our client
- Help you file your application for SSD and SSI benefits
- Contact SSA as soon as you file your application to explain that your lung cancer is a Compassionate Allowance
- Request reconsideration if you receive an initial denial from Disability Determination Services
- Help you confirm your Consultative Exam
- Request a Hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)
- Prepare you to be a good witness at your SSA hearing
- Represent you at your hearing and question the vocational and medical witnesses.
- Read more about vocational experts here.
- Learn more about medical expert testimony here.
- Request review of an unfavorable decision with the Appeals Council
- Request review of an Appeals Council denial in Federal Court
If you file your application for disability benefits online at Social Security’s website, then you have 6 months to complete the application. Once you submit your application online, the SSA sends you an application summary in the mail. You must sign the summary and mail it back. Additionally, once you receive a denial from the SSA, you have 60 days to file an appeal. You must meet the time limit set by the SSA. If you do not, then you will have to start the process over again. That means you will lose any benefits you could receive on the old application.
HIRE CANNON DISABILITY TO WIN YOUR SSDI BENEFITS
In the past 30 years, we have won millions of dollars in ongoing and back due due benefits for our clients. If you want to win benefits for lung cancer, then you need to hire an attorney with the experience to win your case. Also, you need a lawyer to show the SSA that your lung cancer qualifies for SSD benefits. We can do that. Contact us today.
If you want to learn more about Cannon Disability’s lawyers and staff, then read our About Us page. For instance, Andria Summers is an amazing advocate. She can help you with your Medicare plan. She has also won thousands of SSD cases. Dianna Cannon has been helping clients win benefits for thirty years. Brett Bunkall also has significant experience helping people obtain their SSI and SSD benefits. We are experts. You can trust us to help you win benefits for lung cancer.
In the past 30 years, we have won over 20,000 SSDI and SSI cases for our clients. Also, we help our clients with their Medicare benefits. Our specialists can help you apply for disability benefits using the SSA’s website.
Likewise, if you need an appeal, we can help you do that too. There are also many forms you will need to fill out. But, don’t worry. If you have questions about these forms, then we will answer them. You can learn more about SSA’s appeal forms here. Call us for a free review of your benefits and lung cancer case today.