After being diagnosed with breast cancer it is important to be aware of the different stages of this cancer and precautions to take depending on its severity. This guide can help someone diagnosed with breast cancer navigate through all the information provided by their healthcare provider. This will help to enable them to get the best outcome after their diagnosis has been confirmed.
Key Facts About Breast Cancer
Approximately 1 in 8 U.S. women or 13 percent are expected to develop invasive breast cancer at some time through their life. In 2021, 281,550 invasive breast cancer cases are likely to be diagnosed in U.S. women plus 49,290 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer.
In 2021, there were at least 3.8 million U.S. women who live with a history of breast cancer. This includes those currently being treated and those who have completed treatment. Also, there are predicted to be 2,650 new cases of invasive breast cancer diagnosed in men in 2021.
Risk Factors for Breast Cancer
A woman’s risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer almost doubles if she has a mother, sister or daughter who has been diagnosed with this type of cancer. But overall, just 15 percent of women who get breast cancer have a family member who has been diagnosed with it.
If you have at some time had radiation to the chest to treat another type of cancer like Hodgkin's disease or non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, you have a higher-than-average chance of getting breast cancer. If you had radiation to the face while an adolescent to treat acne you have a higher risk later in life of developing breast cancer later in life. Anyone who has had hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has a higher chance of developing cancer.
However, 85 percent who get the disease are due to mutations which take place as women age. Being overweight and failing to exercise regularly could help to cause breast cancer too.
Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer
Signs and symptoms that signal a problem worth checking out by a doctor, according to the American Cancer Society, include any of the following:
- swelling of part or all of the breast;
- skin irritation or dimpling of the breast;
- redness or thickening of the breast skin or nipple;
- pain at the nipple or the nipple turning inwards;
- pain in the breast area;
- a lump found in under the arm;
- a discharge from the nipple that isn’t breast milk;
Stages of Breast Cancer Overview
Breast cancer follows a series of stages where each one signifies the extent of the cancer.
Stage 1 is when breast cancer cells have been found in one to three lymph nodes in the armpit. It is non-invasive ductal carcinoma.
Stage 2 means breast cancer cells have been found in 4–9 lymph nodes in the armpit, and the lymph nodes are also enlarged, and/or attached to each other or to nearby tissue; or 1 or more lymph nodes under the breastbone, but not in any lymph nodes in the armpit.
Stage 3 means breast cancer cells have been found in 10 or more lymph nodes in the armpit; or 1 or more lymph nodes above or below the collarbone; or 1 or more lymph nodes under the breastbone and 1 or more lymph nodes in the armpit.
Stage 3B is when the cancer is any size but it has spread to nearby muscles and skin.
Stage 3C is when the cancer is any size and is found in the lymph nodes but hasn’t necessarily spread to other parts of the body.
Stage 4 is when the cancer is any size, may or may not be present in the lymph nodes but has already spread to other parts of the body.
The Steps to Take in the Event of a Breast Cancer Diagnosis
If you have had the misfortune of being diagnosed with breast cancer, depending on its severity, you may not be able to work while you are receiving treatment. You may be able to file a claim for a Social Security disability benefit to cover you for the time you are unable to work.
Breast cancer is listed under Section 13.10 in the Social Security Administration’s Blue Book. The simplest way to win eligibility for a social security disability claim is to meet the listings as they are described in the Blue Book. You need to work with your physician to assess the severity and type of your breast cancer diagnosis. You will need to provide sufficient evidence with your Social Security Benefits disability claim. This could include:
- the results of your mammography or ultrasound;
- results of a biopsy, a needle aspiration, a lumpectomy, or exploratory surgery;
- imaging results including an X-ray, MRII, CT scan, bone scan or a PET scan;
- lymph node biopsy results;
- blood laboratory results.
After assessing how much the disease has spread, your oncologist will record the stage and your breast cancer grade. The SSA will evaluate this information and use it to determine the extent of your illness.
What You Will Need To Know When Filing For Social Security Disability with Breast Cancer?
When the SSA assesses breast cancer under Listing 13.10 it specifies the qualification criteria. If someone has breast cancer, she must have been diagnosed with the following to qualify for disability benefits:
- distant metastases;
- inflammatory carcinoma;
- metastases to 10 or more axillary nodes;
- metastases to the ipsilateral internal mammary nodes, or
- metastases to the supraclavicular or infraclavicular nodes;
- recurrent carcinoma (excluding any local recurrence that is controlled through treatment);
- a tumor extended to the chest wall or skin.
If your medical records do not satisfy the requirements listed above, you may still be approved for a social security disability benefit through a medical-vocational allowance. You will have to undergo the residual functional capacity (RFC) test performed by your physician which determines whether you are able to work at all with breast cancer. The RFC tests your mobility and mental capacity.
If you believe you qualify for a Social Security disability benefit, but you find the process of submitting your claim overwhelming, contact a disability attorney who may be able to guide you through the process.