Melanoma, a cancer in the cells that produce skin pigmentation, is the most serious and aggressive of all skin cancers. It can quickly spread from the skin to the lymph nodes and other parts of the body. Melanoma affects approximately 62,000 Americans each year. Treatment includes immunotherapy, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery. About 9,000 people per year die from the disease.
Other common skin cancers include:
- Basal Cell Carcinoma: Basal cell carcinoma is the most common skin cancer in the U.S. and accounts for 90 percent of skin cancer diagnoses. It usually develops on parts of the body that were exposed to the sun, especially the head and neck. Fortunately, it is rare for this type of cancer to spread. The cancer can usually be removed through surgery or treated with creams. Radiation is rarely needed.
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma: Squamous cell carcinoma is the second-most common skin cancer. It is not usually life threatening. However, unlike basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma can spread to other parts of the body. It is especially likely to spread when it is untreated or when the cancer affects the lip or other mucus membranes. It is treated in the same way as basal cell carcinoma.
- Kaposi’s sarcoma: This cancer generally affects those with suppressed immune systems. It cannot be cured and must be surgically removed.
Most people with basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma will not qualify for Social Security disability (SSDI) benefits. Those with melanoma can qualify when the disease is aggressive or in its advanced stages. In order to receive SSDI for skin cancer, you must show the following:
- You are not working.
- You are unable to work at any job.
- You have a diagnosis that meets or is equal in severity to the Social Security Administration’s disability listing 13.03 (malignant and neoplastic diseases of the skin).
- Your condition is expected to last for at least one year.
To meet the listing for skin cancer, you must have medical evidence of one of the following:
- Skin cancer that has spread beyond the local lymph nodes.
- Melanoma that has returned even after surgical removal of the cancer and the skin around the cancer.
- Melanoma that has spread to one or more lymph node AND is clinically apparent through imaging.
- Melanoma that has spread to four or more lymph nodes.
- Melanoma that has spread to the surrounding skin or to other parts of the body.
Your records must state the type of cancer you have, where the cancer originated, and where it has spread. You should have reports from all biopsies and copies of all imaging. You should also have a record of all treatments received and the effects of the treatment.
If you do not meet the exact requirements of listing 13.03, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will have to determine if your cancer is equal in severity to the listing. Complete medical records will help support your claim.
If your condition does not meet or equal the skin cancer listing, it may be more difficult to get SSDI benefits. The SSA will use your medical records to determine how your cancer affects your ability to work.
If you are approved for SSDI based on skin cancer, you may receive benefits for at least three years after your skin cancer goes into remission. After three years, you will need to show the Social Security Administration that you are still disabled.
You can learn more about applying for SSDI for skin cancer in Boston disability attorney John Keefe’s book, Unlocking the Mystery: The Essential Guide for Navigating the Social Security Disability Claims Process. It is not always an easy process, but our Massachusetts disability benefits lawyers can help. To schedule a free case evaluation, contact Keefe Disability Law at 888-904-6847.