Can I Work with Cancer?

There are more than 100 distinct diseases which are broadly classified as cancer. While there are many differences between one form of cancer and the next, all forms of cancer involve uncontrolled cell growth in the affected part of your body. While cell growth (and division, dying, etc) is normal in a healthy body, in a cancer sufferer, the cell growth becomes uncontrolled and begins to form tumors, which can affect the functioning of various organs and bodily functions.

Cancer cells multiply and often spread from the originating organ to other parts of the body. Cancers are defined and named for the part of the body from which the abnormal cell growth originated regardless of which parts of the body the cancer may have spread to.

Early detection is key to treating cancer. A variety of treatments are available, with two of the most common being radiation treatment and chemotherapy. Often, these treatments make it impossible for cancer sufferers to continue to engage in meaningful work.

All forms of cancer can qualify you for Social Security Disability benefits if your condition is severe and advanced enough, and some forms of cancer automatically qualify you for Social Security Disability benefits. To qualify for Social Security disability benefits with cancer, you must meet the SSA's Blue Book listing for your specific type of cancer.

Over 40 forms of cancer automatically qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. If you have one of these forms of cancer, you will qualify for a compassionate allowance, which will allow you to start receiving Social Security disability benefits and Medicare much more quickly (generally within three weeks) than other Social Security Disability claimants. You can check the Social Security Administration (SSA)’s list of qualifying conditions or check with a Social Security Disability lawyer for more detailed information regarding compassionate allowances.

Cancer and Your Ability to Perform Physical Labor

Most forms of cancer can cause severe pain and fatigue, which can make it impossible to perform physical work. Additionally, many of the treatments used to fight cancer can cause debilitating symptoms which hinder physical activity. Assuming you don’t have a form of cancer which qualifies you for a compassionate allowance, the extent and severity of your cancer’s impact on your ability to perform physical tasks will be considered in determining if you are qualified for Social Security Disability benefits.

Generally speaking, in order to qualify for Social Security disability benefits, your cancer must be expected to last (or have already lasted) at least one year or to end in your death. Additionally, your cancer symptoms (or treatment related symptoms) must prohibit you from performing any job which you have performed in the past 15 years or for which the SSA determines you could reasonably be trained. This includes jobs of all levels of physical exertion, including light physical work (defined as requiring occasional lifting of up to 25 pounds and regular lifting of up to 10 pounds). Make sure that all physical limitations are clearly detailed in terms of what you can and cannot do on your Social Security Disability application. Having a Social Security Disability attorney help you fill out your claim or appeal improves your chances of having your claim accepted by the SSA’s adjudicators.

Cancer and your Ability to Perform Sedentary Labor

Many who are incapable of performing physical work still qualify for sedentary work. The SSA defines sedentary work as work which requires you to sit for extended periods of time and to lift less than 10 pounds. Sedentary work often involves education, people skills, or manual dexterity. Cancer can and does often affect a sufferer’s ability to work with people and his or her manual dexterity. You will want to make sure that all physical and mental hindrances to employment are clearly and thoroughly mentioned in your Social Security Disability claim.