It’s been about a week since your breast cancer diagnosis was confirmed at the Cancer Center at St. Clare’s. You set up your surgery, and the doctors say you have a good chance at recovery—however, you’re having trouble concentrating on your work. Is there any way you can collect Social Security while you go through treatment?

Does Your Breast Cancer Diagnosis Qualify You for Social Security Disability Benefits?

The first thing that will determine if Social Security will pay disability for your breast cancer is your specific diagnosis. Oncologists use a staging system to rate the severity of a patient's breast cancer, with each stage depending on a number of factors. At each successive stage, the odds that your condition will be covered by disability increases. For instance:

  • STAGE 0. Stage 0 is used to describe non-invasive breast cancers, most commonly ductal carcinomas. It is called Stage 0 because there may be pre-cancerous or non-cancerous abnormal cells that are localized to a small area of the breast tissue. Because Stage 0 is usually treatable, this type of cancer will generally not be approved for disability benefits.
  • STAGE 1. Stage 1 breast cancer indicates the presence of a tumor up to 2 cm and that cancerous cells have invaded neighboring breast tissue. However, the lymph nodes have not been affected.
  • STAGE 2. In Stage 2 breast cancer, the lymph nodes start to become affected and the tumor may increase in size. Stage 2 may describe a presence of cancerous cells in the lymph nodes under the arms, a tumor that is two centimeters or less and has spread to the lymph nodes under the arms, or a tumor under five centimeters that has spread to the lymph nodes.
  • STAGE 3. Stage 3 breast cancer may not have a breast tumor at all; rather, the cancer is located in the lymph nodes under the arms or near the breastbone. If a tumor is classified as Stage 3, it is generally five centimeters, or more. Higher Stage 3 cancers may be classified as inflammatory, meaning the cancer may have spread to the skin on the breast or chest wall, and the cancer has likely spread into the lymph nodes.
  • STAGE 4. In Stage 4 breast cancer, the cancer has spread beyond the breast and upper body into other bodily systems, such as the bones and kidneys. Patients with a diagnosis of Stage 4 breast cancer qualify for a Social Security compassionate allowance and can get immediate disability payments.

Do you need to get Social Security payments for cancer treatment as soon as possible? Post a comment on this page to ask us a question, or contact us privately using the short form on the right of this page.

Manfred Ricciardelli
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Morristown Workers' Compensation Lawyer
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