Compared to other cancers, pancreatic cancer is less well-known.However, it is the third leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States. The rates of pancreatic cancer continue to rise, with studies predicting that it will surpass other diseases to become the second leading cause of cancer-related death by 2030.
If you have pancreatic cancer and are unable to work as a result, there is a good chance that you could receive help from the Social Security Administration. The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program was created to assist those who have become disabled due to an illness such as pancreatic cancer.
What Is Pancreatic Cancer?
Pancreatic cancer is an aggressive form of cancer that develops in the tissues of the pancreas. The pancreas is a six-inch gland located behind the stomach. The job of the pancreas is to produce digestive juices to help break down food. It also produces the hormone insulin, which regulates blood sugar.
Pancreatic cancer often does not exhibit symptoms until it is already at an advanced stage. Unlike breast cancer or colon cancer, there is no screening available for pancreatic cancer. As a result, by the time it is discovered, it’s often very challenging to treat.
The risk of pancreatic cancer goes up as we age, and is slightly more common in men. Those who smoke or are overweight are at higher risk. Additionally, a family history of pancreatic cancer increases risk as well.
The only cure for pancreatic cancer is surgery. However, surgery is only an option if the cancer is still in its early stages, which is rare. Chemotherapy and radiation are also common treatments for pancreatic cancer. Sometimes, a patient may qualify for a new clinical trial, which is a study to try a new treatment. If none of these treatments are an option, there are many supportive treatments to help lessen the symptoms.
What Can I Expect?
A range of symptoms can be expected when you have pancreatic cancer, and they all might affect your ability to work differently.
- If you have pancreatic cancer, you may experience a yellowing of the skin, also called jaundice. Jaundice occurs when there is a buildup of bilirubin, a substance made in the liver. You may also experience dark urine or yellow-tinted eyes. Excess bilirubin may also cause itchy skin and greasy stools.
- Pain is a very common symptom of pancreatic cancer and typically occurs in the stomach or the back. 75% of patients with advanced pancreatic cancer experience pain as a result of the tumor pushing against other organs or nerves. If pain medication is unsuccessful at treating the pain, a celiac nerve block is sometimes offered.
- Pancreatic cancer usually causes weight loss, muscle wasting, and loss of appetite. The weight loss associated with pancreatic cancer can be very difficult to manage. Sometimes, a drug called Megace is used to stimulate appetite.
- Fatigue and weakness often accompanies pancreatic cancer. For some, performing everyday tasks such as taking a shower is exhausting.
- Abdominal swelling and accumulation of fluid in the stomach is also common in more advanced cases of pancreatic cancer.
If you must get chemotherapy or radiation, you may experience some side effects that may affect your quality of life. Common side effects of chemotherapy include nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea or constipation, and increased infections.
Do I Qualify for Benefits?
As pancreatic cancer is such a serious disease, in most cases you will be automatically be approved for Social Security benefits. If you have a pancreatic carcinoma or an inoperable or unresectable islet cell carcinoma, you will be eligible for financial help. In fact, in most cases, you will qualify for a compassionate allowance, which was created by the Social Security Administration to expedite applications for those in greater need.
What Information Will I Need to Provide?
When applying for Social Security, you may be asked to provide the following:
- Confirmation of your pancreatic cancer diagnosis from an Oncologist, including pathology notes.
- Lab tests including blood, urine, and stool samples to check for levels of Bilirubin.
- CT scan, MRI, ultrasound, or other images to determine the extent or the spread of your cancer.
- Surgical notes if your treatment for pancreatic cancer has included surgery.
- Notes from your doctor, physical therapist, or other health care provider that describe your symptoms and illness.
What’s Next For My Claim?
If you have received a pancreatic cancer diagnosis, you should contact a disability advocate or lawyer in your area. While cancer can be scary, navigating how to care for yourself financially should not be. A qualified attorney can help you with questions surrounding the Social Security application process, leaving you time to focus on what’s most important: your health.