Adrenal cancer, a cancer that develops in the adrenal glands, is rare, but often aggressive. The lack of symptoms that this cancer produces often causes late diagnosis. A combination of the aggressiveness of this cancer and the late diagnosis can lead to significant disabilities. If you have this cancer and it has spread beyond the adrenal gland, you will be eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits, and you may be able to receive them quickly. If your adrenal cancer has not spread, but it prevents you from being able to function properly or work, you may be eligible for disability benefits, though not in an expedited fashion.
About Adrenal Cancer
Adrenal cancer occurs when a malignant tumor develops in the adrenal glands, which are located on the top of the kidneys and are responsible for producing hormones that affect nearly every organ or tissue within the body. Adrenal cancer is often hard to detect through symptoms, but the people who do have symptoms have them due to two main reasons. Half of the people with symptoms have symptoms caused by hormones that the tumor is making. The other half has symptoms caused by the growing size of the tumor.
For individuals who have adrenal cancer that is affecting the production of hormones, the symptoms depend on which hormone is affected. There are two main hormones that cause symptoms in adults: cortisol and aldosterone. Increased cortisol can result in Cushing Syndrome, which can cause fatigue, muscle weakness, bone thinning, emotional impairments, difficulty with thinking, and high blood pressure. Increased aldosterone can result in Conn’s Disease, which can cause headache, fatigue, muscle spasms, periodic paralysis, vision problems, and psychiatric difficulties.
For individuals who have large tumors, the tumor can cause pain, a feeling of fullness in the belly, and difficulty eating due to the stomach feeling full quickly.
Getting Disability Benefits for Adrenal Cancer
In order to qualify for disability benefits, including Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you must either meet one of Social Security's disability listings or show that you are unable to work due to your symptoms.
Meeting the Listing for Adrenal Cancer
For adrenal cancer, there is a specific listing, 13.02. To meet the requirements of this listing, you must show that you have adrenal cancer that either:
- is inoperable
- has come back (after being in remission or removed by surgery), or
- has spread beyond the regional lymph nodes.
It is important to note that for the purposes of meeting this listing, you must provide evidence that the cancer originated in the adrenal gland. Cancer of this organ, however, often does not originate in the adrenal gland. Often the tumors begin in some other organ, such as the lungs or breast, and therefore are not considered to be adrenal cancer.
If your adrenal cancer does not meet this listing, it is possible that you may meet another listing if complications arise due to the hormone imbalances. Hormone imbalances can cause complications leading to disability for the following:
When You Don't Meet the Listing for Adrenal Cancer
If you are unable to work due to your impairments but your cancer doesn't meet the listing, you may still be eligible for disability benefits. Social Security looks at your physical, mental, and sensory abilities when assessing your ability to return to work. Additionally, the agency will consider your age, education level, and work experience in determining what level of job you are qualified to do.
For those with adrenal cancer, physical impairments such as fatigue, muscle spasms, periodic paralysis, and pain may limit one’s ability to work. An inability to eat regularly may increase fatigue. These symptoms could prevent you from not only doing manual labor, but may also prevent you from doing desk work, depending on the level of fatigue and where the paralysis occurs.
Those with adrenal cancer can also have mental symptoms, including emotional disturbances and/or cognitive deficits. Individuals may have difficulty completing tasks at work due to an inability to understand, follow through, and complete tasks. There may also be difficulty interacting with coworkers or responding properly to feedback from your boss.
Another symptom of adrenal cancer that can further limit your ability to work may be limited vision. Beyond limiting the physical tasks that can be performed, visual problems can limit the environment in which you may be able to work.
When You Are Denied Benefits for Adrenal Cancer
If Social Security finds your abilities are not limited enough by your cancer, or that your limitations aren't expected to last long enough (one year) to qualify you for disability benefits, you can appeal. If your condition continues to affect you while you wait for an appeal hearing, you have a better chance of getting benefits.
If your adrenal cancer advances while you are waiting for your hearing, so that you meet the listing requirements for adrenal cancer, notify Social Security right away that you qualify for a "Compassionate Allowance."
If you meet the listing for adrenal cancer, you are automatically eligible for Compassionate Allowance (CAL) treatment. Social Security uses its CAL program to quickly identify certain impairments that would qualify for benefits with minimal medical evidence. Compassionate Allowance cases are fast tracked, allowing individuals to receive disability benefits quickly.