Soft tissue sarcomas are relatively uncommon cancers that usually develop in the bone and soft connective tissue of older adults. This may mean muscle, nerve, or fat tissue, as well as deep skin tissues. The cancer can originate anywhere, but is commonly found in the limbs or the internal organs.
Soft tissue sarcoma is a particularly difficult cancer to catch early because there are few, if any, symptoms during the early stages. This is primarily because soft tissue is very elastic and allows for tumors to grow very large before interfering with other functions. Eventually, a noticeable lump can form, causing pain or numbness as it presses against nerves or other muscles.
There are many types of soft tissue sarcomas, which produce similar symptoms. These sarcomas include, but are not limited to:
- Liposarcoma, which affects fat tissue
- Leiomyosarcoma, which affects smooth muscle tissue
For the most part, the cause of sarcomas like this are unknown. There is some hereditary link, especially as an accompaniment to inherited diseases, like tuberous sclerosis and neurofibromatosis. Chemical exposure is another possible origin.
Soft tissue sarcomas can be diagnosed using a combination of examinations and tests. Your doctor will ask about cancer in your family, as well as perform a physical exam. Depending on the results of these, your doctor may order body scans and/or a biopsy to confirm suspicions. The sarcoma can be graded stage I— meaning the tumors have not spread—through stage IV, which usually means the tumor cells appear highly abnormal and the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. It is these later stages of distantly spread or recurrent sarcomas that will most likely qualify for benefits.
Surgery is the most common first treatment. The surgeon will remove the tumors and some of the tissue around them. If the cancer is recurrent or has spread throughout the body, chemotherapy and radiation therapy will also be used alongside surgery. Because of the age of most soft tissue sarcoma patients and the stage at which the tumors are usually discovered, prognosis can be poor.
During the application for Social Security Disability benefits, you will be asked to present medical information that proves your condition is severe and keeps you from earning a living. Cancer cases usually demonstrate this through distant metastases, inoperable tumors, or cases that are recurrent in spite of treatment. Soft tissue sarcomas, like other cancers, are evaluated in the blue book according to section 13.00 Malignant Neoplastic Diseases.
The application process can take months to years before receiving a decision. Fortunately, a program called compassionate allowances pays benefits quickly to those with certain conditions that obviously meet the Social Security Administration (SSA) standards. Health conditions that have been identified by researchers and Social Security officials for compassionate allowances require minimal objective medical information in order to qualify. This might mean a diagnosis alone or a combination of doctor's notes and test results as well.
The SSA considers most soft tissue sarcomas eligible for compassionate allowances, particularly because they are so uncommon and slow to diagnose. Compassionate allowances are not a separate program and you must still complete a Social Security Disability benefit application in order to receive them.
The Application Process
Because compassionate allowances are not a separate program, plan on gathering all of the necessary medical documentation you can that demonstrates you should be considered disabled according to the SSA. This includes: doctor's notes, lab results, records of treatment and hospitalizations, and the diagnosis.
You can apply in person with a member of the SSA or you may submit the completed forms online. In either case, a general application will take time to prepare and may be months before you receive a decision. Even if you believe you will receive a compassionate allowance, make sure you clearly present your claim and prepare to meet the blue book listing for cancer. You will also be required to submit financial or employment information, depending on which benefit program you select.
If your claim is denied by the SSA, begin an appeal immediately. You will have 60 days upon receipt of the denial to appeal before you must resubmit your application. Seek help from a disability attorney if you are unsure about how to proceed with any part of the application, or if you would like help presenting your claim. These benefits can help you afford treatment and stabilize your daily finances, so you will want to make sure you are thorough and persistent.