For many patients, the shock of a cancer diagnosis can make life uncertain and frightening. This is particularly true when that diagnosis is esophageal cancer. Because esophageal cancer is often discovered in its later stages—and metastasis to other parts of the body is common—the cancer tends to progress quickly, leaving patients unable to work. Ultimately, they may be concerned about how to provide for their families. However, Social Security (SS) Disability may provide some help. Not only is esophageal cancer included in the Social Security Administration's (SSA) “Blue Book” Listing of Impairments, the condition may also qualify a patient's application for expedited approval through the Compassionate Allowance program.
What Is Esophageal Cancer?
Esophageal cancer is a very serious type of cancer that starts in the esophagus (the hollow tube in the throat that carries food to the stomach) and can quickly spread to other parts of the body. While there are no known causes of esophageal cancer, the disease occurs when the DNA in esophageal cells mutates and grows out of control, resulting in an accumulation of abnormal cells forming a tumor. Esophageal cancer is more common in men than women and, in the United States, is usually found in the lower portion of a patient's esophagus.
There are two common types of esophageal cancer: squamous cell carcinoma, which occurs in the cells lining the esophagus and esophageal adenocarcinoma, which begins in the throat's mucus-producing cells.
In its earliest stages, esophageal cancer usually causes no noticeable symptoms, which explains why most patients aren't diagnosed until the disease has progressed significantly. When symptoms of esophageal cancer do occur, they can include:
- Dysphagia (trouble swallowing)
- Unexplained weight loss
- Burning, pressure, or pain in the chest area
- Indigestion or heartburn that gets worse and worse with time
- The feeling of an obstruction in the throat
Esophageal cancer is usually diagnosed after a barium swallow, an endoscopy, and a series of esophageal x-rays. Doctors can also use diagnostic tools such as bone scans, PET scans, and CT scans to determine whether the cancer has spread to other areas.
In some cases, esophageal cancer can be successfully treated with surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy. However, these treatments may fail to help patients whose cancer has severely metastasized.
Applying for SS Benefits for Esophageal Cancer
Because the SSA recognizes the seriousness of an esophageal cancer diagnosis and lists it in its Blue Book along with specific eligibility criteria, if your medical records document the presence of esophageal cancer, your application for benefits will likely be approved.
Additionally, because the SSA is aware of the time-sensitive nature of an esophageal cancer diagnosis, the agency's Compassionate Allowance program will ensure that applications from patients with this disease are reviewed more quickly. While a traditional SS application can take as long as a year to go through the approval and appeals process, applications reviewed via the Compassionate Allowance program can be processed and approved in as few as three weeks. Both types of esophageal cancer qualify a patient's application for expedited approval through this program.
Do You Need Help Applying for SS Benefits?
When faced with a life-threatening cancer diagnosis, time matters. Even with the presence of the Compassionate Allowance program, patients may still find themselves struggling through the SSA's complex SS application process. Having a team of skilled disability attorneys by your side can be a great asset. Don't waste valuable time struggling through the application process on your own. Let a legal representative help prepare and submit your application to ensure that it meets the SSA's criteria for Compassionate Allowance expedited processing. Contact the experienced legal team at Keefe Disability Law today for a no-cost case evaluation. You can also request a free copy of our book, The Five Most Frequently Asked Question About Social Security Disability for additional information.