Updated July 18, 2018
Social Security recognizes that, for many stomach cancers, the prognosis is grim because the cancer isn't detected early enough. You will qualify for disability benefits easily if your stomach cancer has extended to surrounding structures, or has metastasized. If your cancer has recurred, has proven to be inoperable or unresectable, or has metastases, you are eligible for expedited processing of your disability application through the Compassionate Allowances program. This means you'll get a decision within weeks of filing a disability application for stomach cancer rather than months. (However, if you are applying through the SSDI program, you'll still won't be eligible for benefits until after the five-month waiting period.)
Symptoms of stomach cancer (also called gastric cancer) include vomiting blood, unintentional weight loss, painful abdominal bloating, dark stools, fatigue, and loss of appetite. Treatment includes surgical removal of the cancerous tissues, but many times stomach cancer is not detected early enough to remove the entire cancerous area. Most stomach cancers develop in the cells found in the lining of the stomach and most are adenocarcinomas. Doctors stage stomach cancer by assessing whether the cancer has grown into the various lining of the stomach, such as the muscosa, subserosa, and the serosa, and whether the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes or distant sites.
Many patients with stomach cancer qualify for disability benefits. To automatically qualify for SSDI or SSI disability benefits for stomach cancer, you need to meet Social Security's impairment listing for stomach or esophageal cancer, listing 13.16. This listing requires that you have a diagnosis of stomach cancer that:
Under this listing, stage IV and stage III stomach cancers clearly qualify for automatic disability. Whether stage I and II stomach cancers qualify for disability benefits under this listing generally depends on whether the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
Even if you should automatically qualify for disability benefits, it's important that you provide the SSA with copies of your biopsies, blood tests, MRIs, and any reports created by your oncologist.
If your stomach cancer doesn't meet the requirements of the listing because it doesn't fulfill the above criteria, but you have symptoms and limitations that prevents you from working, you may be able to get a medical-vocational allowance.
Social Security looks at any limitations you have on your physical and mental abilities to see if there are any jobs you can do. Physically, you might be unable to stand for long periods based on symptoms of weakness or pain. Or you might also need to take frequent rest breaks, which could interfere with your ability to perform productive, competitive work. For instance, surgeries to remove cancer from the stomach often result in greater weight loss and nutritional deficiencies than most other cancers. Extreme weight loss can cause significant fatigue that severely impacts the ability to work a full-time job, especially in jobs requiring physical labor. (If you suffer from weight loss after surgery, you could also qualify for disability under the SSA's disability listing for digestive disorders. To learn more about getting approved for disability without meeting a cancer listing, see our article on medical-vocational allowances.)