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How Disabling is a Brain Tumor?

Nearly 80,000 people are diagnosed with brain tumors each year. There are over 120 different types of brain tumors. While a brain tumor is a serious medical condition, it’s important to remember that not all brain tumors are cancerous.

In fact, for all of those diagnosed with brain tumors, close to 70% will be benign. Some patients may experience a full recovery, while others may be permanently disabled or even die.

If you have a brain tumor and are too ill to work to your full capacity, there could be financial help available to you. The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program was created to assist those who have become disabled due to a condition such as a brain tumor.

What Exactly Is a Brain Tumor?

A brain tumor is an unwanted tissue that develops in the brain or the spine. A brain tumor that is cancerous is said to be malignant, whereas a brain tumor that is not cancerous is said to be benign. Brain tumors are classified into grades. A Grade I tumor is benign and a Grade IV tumor is fast-growing and malignant.

The signs and symptoms of brain tumors depend on their size, type, and location. Both malignant and benign tumors cause similar symptoms, which may include headaches, seizures, changes in personality, visual disturbances, nausea, vomiting, and poor coordination.

The treatment for a brain tumor depends on several factors including the age of the patient, location of the tumor, grade of the tumor, and whether or not it is cancerous. Benign tumors are often successfully removed with surgery.

In some cases, radiation is advised if the tumor is unable to be surgically removed due to location. While benign tumors are typically removable, long-lasting effects can still occur due to the tumor location or surgery.

How Disabling is a Brain Tumor?

What Symptoms Do I Need to Qualify?

There is a broad range of symptoms that you may experience if you have a brain tumor, and they all might affect your ability to work differently. Here are some signs that your brain tumor might help you qualify for financial assistance from the Social Security Administration:

  • Some people with a brain tumor have challenges moving from a seated position to standing. For many of us, our jobs require us to go from sitting to standing.
  • You may experience difficulty with balance when walking or standing, and may even need assistance with walking. If your job demands that you stand or walk, you may experience challenges continuing at your job.
  • Those with a brain tumor may have difficulty coordinating movement of the hands and fingers, such as difficulty holding a pen or grasping money. If your job requires that you use your hands, this may prove difficult.
  • Sometimes a brain tumor may cause the loss of feeling in an extremity, tremors, or loss of control over your body movements.
  • You may experience difficulty learning new information, following instructions, or remembering certain information. If your job requires you to follow instructions or problem-solve, you may have difficulty doing this.
  • People with brain tumors often have difficulty concentrating. If you have a job that demands that you stay on task and work without disruptions, you may face challenges due to your inability to focus.
  • Often people with brain tumors begin to experience challenges interacting with others. If your job requires cooperation, handling conflicts, or social interactions, you may struggle.
  • Brain tumors may cause someone to have trouble managing themselves. They may experience declined mental functioning, making it difficult to make sound decisions, adapt to change, or care for their hygiene.

If your doctor puts you on medications for your brain tumor, you may experience some of the following side effects that may affect your quality of life:

  • Some doctors prescribe anticonvulsants to help prevent seizures. Anticonvulsants may cause imbalance, dizziness, blurred vision, stomach pain, and headaches.
  • Often, steroids are given to reduce swelling around a tumor. Steroids suppress your immune system and may cause increased risk for other infections, swelling in your hands and feet, mood changes, changes in blood sugar, and increased appetite.
  • If your tumor is causing headaches, you may need pain medications. These medications could affect your ability to make decisions and may even impact your ability to drive or operate machinery.
  • You may experience side effects from chemotherapy and radiation, such as nausea, vomiting, and extreme fatigue.

Do I Qualify for Social Security Benefits?

To be eligible for Social Security benefits, your medical records will need to show that the symptoms from your brain tumor are severe enough to prevent you from working at a level that would support you.

Additionally, your illness needs to be disabling for at least 12 months. For most brain tumors, this will be the case. For certain severe types of brain tumors, such as a Glioblastoma Multiforme, you will qualify for a quick review of your application through a Compassionate Allowance.

What Information Will I Need to Provide?

When applying for Social Security, you may be asked to provide the following:

  • Confirmation of your diagnosis from your primary care physician, neurologist, or oncologist
  • X-rays, MRIs, PET scans, CT scans, bone scans, or other imaging results
  • Biopsy results or pathology reports
  • Surgical notes
  • Lumbar puncture tests
  • Blood and urine tests, especially if you are receiving medications or chemotherapy
  • Notes from your doctor, physical therapist, or other health care provider that describe your symptoms and illness

If you are missing any of the above information, contact your doctor or hospital immediately. The more medical evidence that you have on your side, the better your chances of receiving SSDI benefits for your brain tumor.

What’s Next?

If you have a brain tumor and believe that you may qualify for Social Security benefits, you should contact a disability advocate or lawyer in your area. Brain tumors are life-changing medical events. When your health is suffering, it can be difficult to know where to turn or what to do next.

A qualified attorney can help you navigate the Social Security application process, leaving you time to focus on what’s most important: your health.