After seemingly endless chemo treatments, you were hoping for better news. You have a stubborn case of breast cancer, and your oncologist at the St. Elizabeth's Cancer Center in Lincoln plans to continue your chemotherapy treatments. The chemo is affecting your concentration—you can barely think straight, and trying to go work while undergoing regular treatments is impossible. On top of everything else, the bills are piling up. Isn’t there any relief for breast cancer patients who can’t work due to chemotherapy?

Qualifying for Social Security Disability for Advanced Breast Cancer

The Social Security Administration (SSA) realizes that breast cancer itself and the treatment used to combat it can make it extremely difficult for patients to earn a living. While not all breast cancer sufferers will qualify for disability benefits, patients with late-stage cancer will usually be able to collect disability based on their work and functional limitations. For example, you may be able to get benefits if your breast cancer has been classified as:

  • Stage 3A. In this stage, there may be a large tumor, more than five centimeters, present in the breast. If the tumor is less than five centimeters, there is also cancer in the auxiliary lymph nodes. If there is no tumor present, the cancer has affected the lymph nodes in the breastbone or under the arms.
  • Stage 3B. Inflammatory breast cancer may be at Stage 3B or higher. It generally means that the tumor (of any size) has spread to the chest wall or the skin covering the breast. The cancer may or may not have spread to nearby lymph nodes.
  • Stage 3C. In Stage 3C, the tumor has spread to the skin of the breasts or chest wall as well as the lymph nodes above and below the collarbone. Cancer may also be present in the underarm and breastbone lymph nodes.

Special Allowances for Stage 4 Breast Cancer

Stage 4 breast cancer means the cancer has spread beyond the breast to other organs; it is far more aggressive than cancer in earlier stages. If you have been diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer, you not only qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you will be able to claim them more quickly than most other patients will.

Under the Compassionate Allowances program, a patient whose breast cancer is inoperable, cannot be removed completely, or has moved beyond the original tumor site can get immediate payment for costs of care. You must still complete an application and include your pathology report and medical documents for Social Security review.

Not sure if your breast cancer diagnosis will qualify you for payments? Click the link on this page to ask us a question about your application, or order our free guide, 5 Deadly Mistakes That Can Destroy Your Social Security Disability Case.

Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska