Facts about Colon Cancer and Filing for Disability
These selected pages answer some of the most basic, but also some of the most important, questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim for disability benefits.
Facts about the condition
1. Colon cancer involves cancer cells in the large intestine, also known as the colon, and rectal cancer occurs in the last few inches of the colon. These are called colorectal cancers, and they usually begin with polyps, non-cancerous but abnormal cells in the colon.
2. Polyps often do not have symptoms and go unknown without testing. Doctors recommend regular colonoscopy screening tests, usually beginning at age 50, to detect and monitor abnormal cells.
3. Around 90 percent of colon cancer diagnoses are among people over 50. Risk factors include being African-American, inflammatory intestinal conditions like Crohn's disease, Diabetes, genetics and family history, a low-fiber and high-fat diet, inactive lifestyle, obesity, smoking, drinking alcohol, and previous radiation therapy for other cancers.
4. Colonoscopy testing and polyp removal that begins at age 50 and is repeated every five or 10 years can decrease the risk of cancer death by 80 percent or more. Lifestyle choices including achieving and maintaining healthy weight, eating nutritionally and getting physical exercise may decrease the risk of cancer by 60 to 80 percent.
5. Properties present in Aspirin may help prevent colon cancer, but it should not be taken regularly as a preventative measure. Aspirin causes a high risk of bleeding and kidney complications and these risks outweigh any benefits. Vitamin D may also help prevent colon cancer.
6. A vaccine called TroVax was developed in 2006 and tested positively. The vaccine uses the body's immune system to fight off cancer. Trials and further testing are still in the works.
7. Treatment for colon cancer typically involves surgery to remove the cancerous cells followed by chemotherapy. Coping and support are important while fighting and recovering from cancer. Self-education, a strong support system, reasonable goals such as continuing a short working week, and taking time to rest and relax are all important factors in this process.
Qualifying for disability benefits with this condition
Whether or not you qualify for disability and, as a result, are approved for disability benefits will depend entirely on the information obtained from your medical records.
This includes whatever statements and treatment notes that may have been obtained from your treating physician (a doctor who has a history of treating your condition and is, therefore, qualified to comment as to your condition and prognosis). It also includes discharge summaries from hospital stays, reports of imaging studies (such as xrays, MRIs, and CT scans) and lab panels (i.e. bloodwork) as well as reports from physical therapy.
In many disability claims, it may also include the results of a report issued by an independent physician who examines you at the request of the Social Security Administration.
Qualifying for SSD or SSI benefits will also depend on the information obtained from your vocational, or work, history if you are an adult, or academic records if you are a minor-age child. In the case of adults, your work history information will allow a disability examiner (examiners make decisions at the initial claim and reconsideration appeal levels, but not at the hearing level where a judges decides the outcome of the case) to A) classify your past work, B) determine the physical and mental demands of your past work, C) decide if you can go back to a past job, and D) whether or not you have the ability to switch to some type of other work.
The important thing to keep in mind is that the social security administration does not award benefits based on simply having a condition, but, instead, will base an approval or denial on the extent to which a condition causes functional limitations. Functional limitations can be great enough to make work activity not possible (or, for a child, make it impossible to engage in age-appropriate activities).
Why are so many disability cases lost at the disability application and reconsideration appeal levels?
There are several reasons but here are just two:
1) Social Security makes no attempt to obtain a statement from a claimant's treating physician. By contrast, at the hearing level, a claimant's disability attorney or disability representative will generally obtain and present this type of statement to a judge.
Note: it is not enough for a doctor to simply state that their patient is disabled. To satisy Social Security's requirements, the physician must list in what ways and to what extent the individual is functionally limited. For this reason, many representatives and attorneys request that the physician fill out and sign a specialized medical source statement that captures the correct information. Solid Supporting statements from physicians easily make the difference between winning or losing a disability case at the hearing level.
2) Prior to the hearing level, a claimant will not have the opportunity to explain how their condition limits them, nor will their attorney or representative have the opportunity to make a presentation based on the evidence of the case. This is because at the initial levels of the disability system, a disability examiner decides the case without meeting the claimant. The examiner may contact the claimant to gather information on activities of daily living and with regard to medical treatment or past jobs, but usually nothing more. At the hearing level, however, presenting an argument for approval based on medical evidence that has been obtained and submitted is exactly what happens.
About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.
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