April is Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month. Esophageal cancer makes up approximately 1% of all cancer diagnoses in the United States. However, due to the increase in gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), the rate of esophageal cancer is on the rise.
Awareness months are important because they call attention to specific illnesses and issues in our society and allows impacted people to learn about the support and health services available to them as well as how to access them. As such, April being Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month invites organizations to focus on and talk about this type of cancer to ultimately help potential victims learn about the risks and symptoms of this disease so that they can get the treatment they need as soon as possible following a diagnosis. This offers a better outcome for the victim.
What is Esophageal Cancer?
The esophagus is the tube that runs from the throat to the stomach. Cancer of the esophagus is an aggressive form of cancer that can occur anywhere along the lining of the esophagus. More specifically, esophageal cancer begins to establish itself in the cells that line the inside of the esophagus. Esophageal cancer is considered to be so aggressive because it tends to grow slowly and may grow for several years before symptoms are felt. But, once its symptoms develop and can be felt, esophageal cancer progresses rapidly.
More men than women are diagnosed with esophageal cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, the lifetime risk of esophageal cancer in the U.S. is approximately 1 in 417 in women and 1 in 125 in men.
Esophageal cancer is classified according to the type of cells that are involved. There are two main types of esophageal cancer which are the following:
- Adenocarcinoma, which begins in the cells of the mucus-secreting glands in the esophagus. It is the most common form which affects mainly white men;
- Squamous cell carcinoma, which occurs in the upper and middle parts of the esophagus.
Symptoms of esophageal cancer may include:
- worsening indigestion or heartburn;
- weight loss which is not deliberate;
- difficulty with swallowing;
- coughing or hoarseness;
- chest pain.
Diagnosing esophageal cancer may include the following:
- a barium swallow study which is when the victim swallows a liquid that includes barium and then undergoes X-rays. The barium coats the inside of the esophagus, which then shows any tissue changes on the X-ray.
- conducting an endoscopy which is when the doctor passes a flexible tube equipped with a video lens into the esophagus. The doctor is able to examine the esophagus, looking for indications of cancer.
- taking a biopsy of the esophageal tissue which is sent to a lab for analysis.
Treatment for esophageal cancer will depend on the severity of the cancer and how far it has spread but may include surgery to remove very small tumors, surgery to remove a portion of the esophagus, and, in the worst cases, surgery to remove part of the esophagus and the upper portion of the stomach.
How Does Esophageal Cancer Qualify For Disability Benefits?
Patients diagnosed with esophageal cancer may qualify for disability benefits because this cancer is found under Section 13.16 of the Social Security Administration’s Blue Book. The Blue Book is a manual that lists every medical condition that the Social Security Administration (SSA) considers to be severe enough to qualify someone to receive Social Security disability benefits. Thereby, the Blue Book is the list the SSA uses when making decisions about applicants’ claims for disability benefits.
However, while people with esophageal cancer can qualify for disability benefits because it is in the Blue Book, the claimant who is applying for disability with esophageal cancer still must provide evidence which proves how they are unable to work for at least 12 months. And, if a claimant’s esophageal cancer is so severe that it is life threatening, the victim may qualify for a Compassionate Allowance which would allow them to receive disability benefits much faster compared to other applicants. The SSA has something called the Compassionate Allowance Program, through which compassionate allowances are given to disability applicants who have severe medical conditions that invariably qualify for disability because they meet the SSA's criteria and requirements. Compassionate allowances refer to instances in which the SSA fast-tracks disability benefits applications in an effort to make sure that applicants who really need the assistance are able to get it without having to join a queue.
Get Help With Your Esophageal Cancer Disability Claim
Oftentimes, claims for disability benefits are denied because the claimant is unable to prove how their cancer is severe enough to prevent them from going to work. This is when an attorney may be able to help you qualify by assisting you in gathering the proper (and best) evidence possible that proves the severity of your esophageal cancer. Furthermore, working with an attorney can help ensure that you are able to focus on yourself, your recovery, and spending time with loved ones while they work on making your disability case the strongest it can be.
Complete the Free Case Evaluation on this page to get connected with an independent, participating attorney who subscribes to the website and can help you get the disability benefits you may need for esophageal cancer.