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Pancreatic cancer starts in the pancreas, which is an organ in your abdomen behind the stomach.

There are two main types of pancreatic cancer: Exocrine Pancreatic Cancer and Endocrine Pancreatic Cancer. You can obtain SSDI and SSI benefits for both types of cancer. However, you can only be paid benefits under SSA’s compassionate allowance program for non-islet cell adenocarcinoma of the pancreas.


  • Adenocarcinoma: This is the most common type of pancreatic cancer. It accounts for almost 90% of cases. Adenocarcinomas arise from the cells that line the pancreatic ducts. These tumors usually start in the head of the pancreas. They can grow quite large before causing any symptoms.
  • Ampullary Cancer: This type of cancer forms in the ampulla of Vater, which is a small area where the common bile duct and pancreatic duct meet and empty into the small intestine. Ampullary cancer is rare.


  • Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumors (PNETs): These tumors develop from the hormone producing cells (islet cells) in the pancreas. PNETs are less common than exocrine tumors. They account for about 1-2% of all pancreatic cancers. The cells tend to grow more slowly and are less aggressive than exocrine tumors. PNETs can be further divided into functional and non-functional tumors. This depends on whether they produce hormones and cause certain symptoms.
  • Insulinoma, Glucagonoma, Gastrinoma, etc.: These are specific types of PNETs named after the hormones they produce. For example, insulinomas produce excess insulin, which can lead to low blood sugar. Glucagonomas produce glucagon, a hormone that raises blood sugar levels. Gastrinomas lead to excess production of gastrin that causes stomach ulcers.

Pancreatic Cancer & SSD benefits


The symptoms of pancreatic cancer are often similar to other conditions that are not cancer. However, if you experience the following symptoms, then you should see a doctor. That way, the doctor can rule out the disease.

  • fatigue or weakness
  • weight loss
  • nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • pain in the abdomen or back
  • dark urine or clay colored stool
  • jaundice
  • blood clots

Finally, if these symptoms do show that you have cancer, then please remember to seek treatment. Early treatment can be the difference between life and death with this form of cancer.


The prognosis for those with pancreatic cancer is usually not good, because the cancer is usually found in the late stages. This occurs because there is a lack of symptoms at early stages of the cancer. More than 80% of pancreatic cancer patients have tumors that have spread and cannot be removed. Therefore, the average survival rate for those patients is less than one year. Unfortunately, 95% of all patients with pancreatic cancer will not live more than five years. Overall, the average time from diagnosis to death is four to six months.

Here is a rough list of survival rates based on the stage at diagnosis:

  1. Localized Stage (Stage I): At this stage, the cancer is confined to the pancreas and has not spread to nearby lymph nodes or other organs. The 5 year survival rate for localized pancreatic cancer is around 20-25%.
  2. Locally Advanced Stage (Stage II): In this stage, the cancer may have spread to nearby blood vessels or lymph nodes. The 5 year survival rate is lower, usually between 10-15%.
  3. Metastatic Stage (Stage IV): At this advanced stage, the cancer has spread to other organs. This makes it much more difficult to treat. The 5 year survival rate for metastatic pancreatic cancer is less than 5%.


The treatment for pancreatic cancer depends on several factors, including the type of cancer and how far along it is. Also, your overall health matters to the type of treatment you can get. Here are some common treatment options for pancreatic cancer:

  1. Surgery:
    • Whipple Procedure: This is the most common surgery for tumors in the head of the pancreas. It requires removing the head of the pancreas, part of the small intestine, gallbladder, common bile duct, and sometimes part of the stomach.
    • Distal Pancreatectomy: This surgery removes the tail and body of the pancreas, along with the spleen.
  2. Radiation Therapy:
    • High-energy beams (X-rays or protons) are used to target and kill cancer cells. It’s often used in combination with other treatments.
  3. Chemotherapy:
    • Medications are used to kill cancer cells or slow their growth. The therapy is either taken orally or through an IV.
  4. Targeted Therapy:
    • These drugs target specific molecules involved in cancer growth. They can be used in combination with chemo.
  5. Immunotherapy:
    • Immunotherapy drugs help the immune system recognize and attack cancer cells. It’s a newer approach and is being studied for pancreatic cancer.
  6. Precision Medicine:
    • Precision medicine uses genetic information from the tumor to guide treatment decisions. The goal is  to tailor treatments to specific cancer genes.
  7. Clinical Trials:
    • Patients may have the option to be a part of medical trials. These trials test new treatments or combinations of treatments.

Remember, finding the cancer early and getting treatment can improve the outcome of pancreatic cancer. Always consult with a doctor and follow their treatment advice.


Pancreatic cancer has a specific listing in SSA’s “blue book.” The listing for pancreatic cancer is 13.20. Read here, if you would like to learn more information about how to meet an SSA listing. Listing 13.20 states that you should win benefits if you meet the rules under Part A or Part B. The listing is as follows:


A. Carcinoma (except islet cell carcinoma).


B. Islet cell carcinoma that is physiologically active and is either inoperable or unresectable.

As you can see, the listing is split into the two types of pancreatic cancers. You will meet the listing if you can prove that you have cancer through a biopsy report and imaging studies. Under listing 13.20 Part B, the cancer must be unable to be removed. You may also need to show the treatment you are getting has not improved your condition.


Pancreatic cancer occurs when cells of the pancreas grow and form a tumor. Usually, the cancer begins in the ducts that carry pancreatic juices. Your exocrine pancreas cells produce your digestive juices. Also, your pancreas cells produce your hormones. About 95% of pancreatic cancers begin in exocrine cells.

Although rare, pancreatic cancer is usually only cured when it is found at an early stage. Once the cancer starts to spread, then there is less chance for recovery. A pathology report showing the presence of a non-islet cell adenocarcinoma in the pancreas is the test that determines whether or not you can be paid benefits under SSA’s allowance program.


If you have pancreatic cancer, then you will probably meet SSA’s listing for benefits. However, it is possible for someone with islet cell carcinoma to not meet the listing. For example, you would not meet the listing if you have islet cell carcinoma and your doctor was able to remove your tumor.

If you do not meet a listing, then you might still be able to be win benefits based on your RFC. Your RFC determines whether or not you can work. Your RFC includes the physical limits that you have based upon the symptoms of your medical condition.

Physical symptoms are the most common problems for people with pancreatic cancer. However, you may also experience mental issues, such as fatigue. Severe fatigue from radiation and chemotherapy can make you too tired to perform physical activity. Additionally, if you had surgery, then the recovery time can take several weeks to several months.

Mental limits focus on your ability to understand instructions and finish tasks at work. They also focus on your ability to get along with other workers, your boss, and the public. Severe fatigue from treatment for cancer may affect your ability to complete tasks at work.


What happens if your cancer goes into remission? If the SSA applies their rules for pancreatic cancer to your case, then you will receive SSD benefits for at least three years from the date of remission.

If, after three years, your cancer symptoms persist, then the SSA will take into the account the effects of the cancer treatments. At that point, if you are still having symptoms that keep you from working, then your SSD benefits should continue.

Within 29 months from the onset date of your cancer, you can receive Medicare benefits. Medicare benefits help with the cost of health care. However, it does not cover all medical costs. You have choices for how you get Medicare coverage. If you choose to have Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) coverage, then you can buy a Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) policy from a private insurance company. In our law firm, Andria Summers can meet with you for free and give you information about a Medicare advantage plan.


The SSA states that, due to the poor outcome for pancreatic cancer, it is one of the conditions that fall under the Compassionate Allowance program. The main benefit of this program is if your condition is on the list, then your case will be processed more quickly. Therefore, if you have pancreatic cancer, then you will get benefits faster.

Only pancreatic cancer of the exocrine cells is part of this special program. To show that your cancer falls under the program, you should send a pathology report to the SSA. The report should show that you have carcinoma of the exocrine cells. Send your report along with your application for SSD benefits.


Many people wait to apply for SSD benefits because they think they are going to get better. For example, you may have hurt your back at work. After physical therapy and other treatment, your doctor might decide you need surgery. Perhaps you believe that once you have back surgery you will be able to return to work. Unfortunately, there are times when surgery does not work.

If you wait to apply for benefits until long after back surgery, you may miss out on months or years of SSD benefits. This is money that you need to support yourself while you are not working. Benefits can also provide Medicare or Medicaid, which is health insurance that you need to obtain surgery or get ongoing treatment for back pain. Learn more about Medicare benefits.

If you cannot work, then you should apply for SSD benefits immediately. You should not wait to apply until you get better or until you think you will get better. SSD benefits are based upon the number of years you work and the amount of money you earn.  The amount of the monthly benefit is different for everyone. If you cannot work due to your cancer symptoms, then you can probably win benefits.


In the last 30 years, we have won over 20,000 SSDI and SSI hearings for our clients. Additionally, we have won over $100 million in ongoing and past due SSD and SSI  benefits for our clients. During the time we have been in business, we have seen the SSA change their rules.

In our opinion, it has become far more difficult to win Social Security cases. Also, the medical evidence and listing rules are more difficult to meet. Those people who come to the hearing without a lawyer not usually successful in winning benefits.

If you have pancreatic cancer or any type of cancer and you know that you are not going to be able to work for more than 12 months, then you need to apply for benefits. Also, you need to do it right away. Don’t wait, thinking you might go back to work. If you do go back to work, then you can withdraw the SSD application.

Meanwhile, if you don’t go back to work, then you have started the process. SSDI benefits and SSI benefits are available to you if you start an application on the Social Security website.

Remember, to win SSDI and SSI benefits, you must first file an application. Many people believe that once they file an application, the SSA will pay them back in time to when their cancer began. That is not true. Benefits are tied to the date that you apply. SSI benefits begin on the date that file for benefits. SSD benefits can go back only one year prior to the date that you file your application, as long as you were not working.


At our SSD law firm, we can help you apply for benefits. Also, we can help you appeal a denial from the SSA. Likewise, we can represent you in court.  If necessary, we can also appeal your case to the Appeals Council. Additionally, we can file an appeal in Federal Court. We can represent you not matter where you live, whether it be Utah, Nevada, Colorado, Idaho, or California.

If you have pancreatic cancer, then you need legal help to get your benefits. You need to focus on your health and spending time with your family. Advances in medical research and treatments are ongoing and are offering more options for people with this form of cancer. Additionally, medical trials can provide access to new treatments. Do what you can to take advantage of any treatment your doctor offers.

Also, we bring over 60 years of legal experience to your case. For instance, Dianna Cannon has been helping her clients win benefits for over thirty years. Brett Bunkall and Andria Summers also have many years of legal experience. You can learn more on our About Us page. Together, we have won over 20,000 Social Security cases. You can trust that we will do everything we can to win your SSD and SSI benefits for pancreatic cancer.

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