It’s a word we hope to never hear from our doctor: “cancer.” Unfortunately, the reality is physicians diagnose more than 38 percent of all Americans with cancer at some point during their lifetime. That’s more than one in three of your friends, family members, and coworkers.
With the advent of modern medicine, nearly 84 percent of all cancer patients become cancer survivors. It’s the journey to becoming a survivor that sometimes takes the most serious toll. Surgical intervention in combination with chemo and radiation therapy can leave you exhausted and with a weak immune system. You may need a bone-marrow transplant to recover from leukemia or an organ removed to take out a sarcoma.
Cancer is second only to heart disease as the leading cause of death in the United States, and it’s a significant cause of long-term disabilities. If your cancer or the treatment related to it leaves you unable to perform the material and substantial duties of your occupation, you may have a valid claim for individual or group long-term disability benefits.
Long-term disability insurers and the Social Security Administration (SSA) categorize cancer as a malignant neoplastic disease. The vast majority of malignant neoplastic diseases are cancers, but the category also includes certain benign fatty masses and soft-tissue injuries, such as burns. However, the SSA categorizes HIV-related cancers, particularly cancers of the immune system, as immune system disorders.
While we wish a cancer diagnosis alone would qualify people for individual or group disability benefits, the unfortunate reality is, that it won’t. There are so many different types and stages of cancer you’ll still have to prove how cancer prevents you from performing the important duties of your occupation with reasonable continuity and in the usual and customary way.
The award-winning long-term disability insurance attorneys and stellar group ERISA lawyers at DarrasLaw know you don’t need any additional worries. With more than 100 years of combined litigation and claim experience in the field of long-term disability law, we’ll help fight for you, while you fight your cancer. Spearheaded by the nation’s top-ranked long-term disability lawyer, Frank N. Darras, and his all-star team won’t let your individual or group long-term disability insurer wrongfully delay, deny, or terminate your disability benefits without a serious fight. To schedule your free disability policy analysis and case review today, call our experienced disability lawyers and seasoned group ERISA attorneys at (800) 458-4577 or contact us online.
Understanding Different Stages of Cancer
Cancer is a broad term used to define a variety of diseases caused by rapid, abnormal cell division within the body. Most cancers start in one area of the body where the abnormal cells quickly divide, spreading to nearby tissues—lymph nodes (your immune system), blood vessels, and eventually your entire body. Accordingly, cancer that starts in your breast—that is, breast cancer—can spread to your neck, lungs, and stomach if not treated.
Not every cancer spreads, but some don’t need to. Certain cancers manifest in a single cancerous tumor in the brain, while leukemia, a cancer of the bone marrow, is a whole body cancer, by nature.
When you hear about cancer’s stages, this typically denotes how far the cancer has spread:
- Stage 0 – This isn’t a term patients normally hear because it means they don’t have cancer. However, if your physician classifies your cancer as Stage 0, it may mean you have abnormal cells with the potential to form cancer or that you’re in remission.
- Stage 1 – This is early stage cancer, and it typically means doctors caught the cancer exactly where it formed and before it spread. A single breast tumor or melanoma spot on the skin are common examples of early stage cancer. While doctors can treat most early stage cancers and patients have high survival rates, it is easy to miss a cancer diagnosis until it spreads.
- Stage 2 – This means the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes but remains localized. It can also denote the size of certain tumors or their rate of growth. Your lymph nodes are part of your immune system and contain your white blood cells. Accordingly, you may experience more serious symptoms as your immune system comes under attack.
- Stage 3 – This means the cancer has spread to nearby tissues, including the skin and nearby muscles—for example, cancer that spreads from your lungs to your throat.
- Stage 4 – If your cancer has metastasized, it’s Stage 4 cancer. This means the cancer has spread to distant parts of your body. An osteosarcoma of the leg that’s spread to your lungs is an example of metastasized cancer. In such cases, you’ll likely need aggressive, whole-body treatment. This type of cancer is the most likely to cause a long-term disability.
The type of cancer and its stage will dictate appropriate treatment plans. Treating physicians can address some early stage cancers with surgery and immunotherapy only, which could spare you radiation and chemotherapy. However, some early stage cancers are so serious your treating doctors may recommend surgery followed by post-operative radiation.
Most Common Types of Cancer
While cancer refers to a variety of illnesses, doctors further break it down based on where the cancer originates:
- Carcinoma – Cancer that begins in the skin or the tissues that line your organs. Examples of carcinomas include lung, breast, pancreatic, liver, and certain types of skin cancers. If you have an organ cancer, it’s likely a carcinoma. These are the most common cancers in the United States, and physicians often screen patients to catch carcinoma early.
- Sarcoma – These are rare cancers that form in your bones, muscles, cartilage, fat, blood vessels, and connective body tissues. Sarcomas typically manifest as tumors and often reoccur after a surgeon has removed the tumor. Most oncologists will remove sarcomas immediately, but they may require targeted radiation therapy to shrink them before this is possible.
- Melanoma – A common type of skin cancer that specifically begins in your skin’s pigments. This type of cancer spreads quickly, and people diagnosed with melanoma should seek treatment immediately.
- Lymphoma – Cancers of your immune system that form in your lymph nodes and white blood cells. Hodgkin’s and Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma are two devastating types of lymphoma. Lymphoma is commonly diagnosed in patients with HIV/AIDs because they have weakened immune systems. This allows certain viruses, such as Epstein-Barr, to harm your body, which often leads to lymphoma. Hospitals will commonly test lymphoma patients for HIV, and a double diagnosis can overwhelm anyone. However, most patients diagnosed with lymphoma do not have HIV.
- Leukemia – Cancer that forms in your blood and bone marrow. Many patients with leukemia need months of in-patient hospital treatments. Leukemia typically requires whole body radiation and/or chemotherapy. Advanced leukemia may also require a bone marrow or stem-cell transplant. These processes can compromise your immune system and there’s a chance your body will reject the transplant.
In the United States, the most common cancers seen in working Americans include:
- Carcinoma of the skin (non-melanoma skin cancer)
- Prostate cancer
- Breast cancer
- Colon cancer
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Bladder cancer
- Lung cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
Skin cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, and colon cancer make up the vast majority of cancer cases diagnosed in the United States. These are the main types of cancer your treating physician will screen for. Your primary care doctor may perform lung capacity tests, and if necessary, lung cancer screenings during your yearly check-up. Your treating doctor may also perform routine breast and prostate exams and skin checks. As you get older, you may also undergo routine colonoscopies to check for colon cancer.
Physicians often diagnose these cancers in their early stages, which dramatically increases your chance of overall survival rate and reduces the likelihood the cancer will return. The rare sarcomas, melanomas, carcinomas, and leukemia are most often fatal to Americans.
Diagnosing Cancer and Applying for Individual or Group Long-Term Disability Benefits
There is currently no way to screen for every type of cancer. There are actually more than 100 different types of cancer, and when cancer spreads, it can cause endless numbers of symptoms, both physical and mental.
Some cancers present obvious early stage symptoms, such as an abnormal lump in the breast. Treating doctors don’t generally catch other cancers until they spread throughout your body and begin to cause symptoms. Certain under-skin melanomas may not present any symptoms until they reach Stage 4, when generally no effective treatments exist. Other less obvious cancers, such as stomach cancer, may manifest as ulcers, food poisoning, or the stomach flu, making misdiagnosis easy. Knowing your family health history can help lead your treating physician to the correct diagnosis.
Cancer is typically diagnosed at annual exams or after seeking treatment for persistent symptoms. Most patients make multiple trips to the doctor before they receive a diagnosis, as cancer isn’t always the obvious conclusion. You may need to frequently take time away from work during this time. If the doctors find cancer, expect to start treatments almost immediately.
Speak with a top-rated long-term individual disability attorney or experienced ERISA group lawyer at DarrasLaw for a free disability policy analysis and free claim consultation. Our nationally renowned individual disability lawyers and stellar group ERISA attorneys can discuss your medical condition and determine whether you might qualify quickly for benefits.
Cancer Treatments and Individual and Group Long-Term Disability Benefits
Many Americans diagnosed with cancer won’t need to file a claim for individual or group long-term disability benefits. The early stage cancers and sarcomas that physicians can treat with surgery may not require chemotherapy. In addition, many cancers don’t cause serious symptoms, and some people may live with cancer for many years.
On the other hand, some cancers require immediate treatment. Aggressive tumors diagnosed on Monday may require that you start chemotherapy on Tuesday.
Many cancer patients will say that the treatment is often worse than the disease. Chemotherapy typically results in the following side effects:
- Hair loss
- Mouth sores
- Nerve and muscle damage, which can cause pain
- Dry skin
- Urine and kidney dysfunction
- Mental fog, also called chemo brain
- Abnormal bruising and bleeding
While chemotherapy has come a long way, it still harms your good cells, too. Radiation therapy also damages healthy cells in an attempt to kill abnormal cancer cells. Symptoms typically manifest in the areas where your treatment occurs. Common side effects include, but are not limited to:
- Skin blistering
- Dryness around the area of radiation
- Sexual dysfunction
- Painful rashes
Radiation side effects often don’t start until two to three weeks after treatment. For many, it’s these side effects that keep most cancer patients from reliably working.
The hard part is applying for individual or group long-term disability benefits in anticipation of treatment. While some long-term disability insurers allow it, others want compelling, objective medical evidence and proof denoting how your cancer symptoms prevent you from performing the important duties of your occupation. This is the last thing you’ll want to spend time doing while treating, which is why you can trust the experienced long-term individual disability attorneys and nationally respected group ERISA lawyers at DarrasLaw to help.
Contact the Nation’s Leading Individual and Nationally Acclaimed Group ERISA Long-Term Disability Lawyers Today
You have enough to deal with after a cancer diagnosis. Let us try to help with your individual or group long-term disability insurer. Every individual and group long-term disability insurance plan is different, and some long-term disability policies contain special provisions and limitations for cancer-related disabilities.
DarrasLaw’s top-rated long-term individual disability attorneys and nationally pre-eminent group ERISA lawyers can help make your case hard to deny. Led by Frank N. Darras, the nation’s top disability lawyer, his firm knows how to effectively claim anticipatory disabilities, and we can collaborate with your doctors to get the proper, legally sufficient medical evidence to submit to your long-term disability insurer.
Frank N. Darras and his firms have recovered nearly $1 billion in wrongfully delayed, denied, and terminated insurance benefits. Call to see if we can help you.
To schedule your free disability policy analysis or free claim consultation with one of America’s nationally prominent long-term disability lawyers or award-winning group ERISA attorneys, call today at (800) 458-4577 or contact us online.