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How Disabling is Colorectal Cancer?

Colorectal Cancer, also called Colon Cancer, is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer for men and women in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 135,430 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and approximately 50,260 will die from the disease in 2017. Advances in colorectal screening have made it such that more people are surviving this illness.

If you have Colorectal Cancer and are unable to work, 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 an illness such as Colorectal Cancer.

What Exactly Is Colorectal Cancer?

Colorectal cancer is cancer that begins in the colon or rectum, which are both parts of the large intestine. The job of the colon is to absorb water and nutrients from food. Waste is escorted through the colon into the rectum before it exits the body. Colorectal cancer occurs when cells grow out of control. Most colorectal cancers begin as polyps, or abnormal growths, from the inner wall of the colon or rectum.

The majority of colorectal cancer cases occur in people over 50 years old. Other risk factors include a history of inflammatory bowel conditions, a relative with colorectal cancer, a high-fat diet, and an inactive lifestyle. The American Cancer Society recommends that people at average risk of developing colorectal cancer begin getting screened, typically with a colonoscopy, at 50 years of age.

The prognosis of colorectal cancer depends on the stage at which it is discovered. If found early, surgery may be able to offer a cure. In more advanced cases, chemotherapy, radiation, targeted drug therapy, and surgery are often considered.

What Symptoms Do I Need to Qualify?

There are a range of possible symptoms if you have colorectal cancer, and they all might affect your ability to work differently. Here are some ways that your colorectal cancer might qualify you for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration:

  • The majority of colorectal cancers are adenocarcinomas. If you have an adenocarcinoma that is inoperable, unable to be fully removed, or returns after treatment, you will likely qualify for Social Security benefits. In fact, you may be eligible for a compassionate allowance, which was created by the SSA to speed up applications for those most in need.
  • If you have squamous cell carcinoma of the anus that returns after surgery, you have a high likelihood of being approved for Social Security benefits.
  • If your colorectal cancer has spread beyond the closest lymph nodes, you will be considered for financial assistance.
  • If your colorectal cancer causes symptoms that make it difficult to work to your full capacity, you may be considered for Social Security benefits. For example, if the pain you experience from the tumor makes it such that you can’t lift or walk, you may be considered for assistance. Other possible symptoms include weight loss, bleeding, change in bowel habits or stool, and exhaustion.
  • If you have had difficulties related to surgery or if you experience side-effects related to chemotherapy or radiation, you may qualify for assistance from the SSA.

Do I Qualify for Social Security Benefits?

In order to qualify for Social Security benefits, your medical records will need to show that your symptoms are severe enough to prevent you from working at a level which would support you. Additionally, your illness needs to be disabling for at least 12 months.

What Information Will I Need to Provide?

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

  • Biopsy or pathology reports confirming your diagnosis of colorectal cancer.
  • Colonoscopy or screening reports showing the discovery of your cancer or related polyps.
  • X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, or other imaging results that may help to demonstrate the spread of your disease.
  • Surgical notes from any surgeries that you may have had.
  • Detailed physician notes describing your symptoms, treatments, and responses to treatments.
  • Notes from your doctor, physical therapist, or other health care provider that describe your symptoms and illness.

You should begin working with your physician and hospital records department to gather all of the medical reports listed above. The more medical evidence that you have, the better your odds of receiving SSDI benefits for colorectal cancer.

What Should I Do Next?

If you have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer and you believe that you may qualify for Social Security benefits, you should contact a disability advocate or lawyer in your area. Cancer is a difficult and scary diagnosis. A qualified attorney can help you navigate the Social Security application process, leaving you time to focus on what’s most important: your health.