Stomach cancer (gastric cancer) is fairly rare in the United States, accounting for less than 2% of all new cancers diagnosed each year. But it can be severe, and, unfortunately, it's often life-threatening.
Stomach cancer symptoms and the treatments for it can make it impossible to work enough to support yourself. If you have stomach cancer, you might qualify for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA). And if your cancer has advanced, you'll likely qualify for expedited processing of your claim.
Cancers that begin in the stomach are called gastric cancers or stomach cancers, and they're classified into the following three primary types.
Some rare types of cancer can also begin in the stomach, like:
Doctors aren't sure what causes stomach cancer, but certain conditions make it more likely to develop, including:
Some other factors that might play a role in developing gastric cancer are things you can control, like smoking, poor diet, and frequent alcohol consumption. But there are other possible factors that you can't control, like your family history and blood type. (Learn more about the risk factors for stomach cancer.)
There are five stages of stomach cancer, based on how far the cancer has penetrated your stomach lining.
Stomach cancer symptoms can start off relatively mild, like indigestion or feeling bloated after eating. These symptoms are often mistaken for other, less serious conditions. Later, you might develop more severe symptoms such as:
Treatment generally includes surgical removal of the cancerous tissues, but many times, stomach cancer isn't detected early enough to remove the entire cancer. Chemotherapy and chemoradiation are also commonly used to treat stomach cancer.
To automatically qualify for SSDI or SSI disability benefits with stomach cancer, you need to meet the requirements of Social Security's impairment listing for stomach cancer, listing 13.16. This listing requires that you have a diagnosis of stomach cancer and that your cancer:
Under this listing, if you have stage III or stage IV cancer, you'll automatically qualify for disability benefits. Whether stage I or II stomach cancers qualify for disability benefits under this listing will usually depend on whether the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
You'll need solid medical evidence to prove that you meet the listing for stomach cancer. Social Security will expect to see all of your medical tests and treatment records, including the following:
Learn more about the type of medical evidence required by Social Security.
If your stomach cancer doesn't meet the requirements of the listing, your symptoms and limitations might still prevent you from working. For example, surgeries to remove stomach cancer often result in significant weight loss and nutritional deficiencies that cause severe fatigue. (So, you might meet the listing for extreme weight loss, listing 5.08.)
Even if you don't meet the requirements of a listing, if your fatigue prevents you from working full-time, you might qualify for disability benefits through a "medical-vocational allowance." Social Security will next determine if you can do your past work or if there are any jobs you can be expected to do, given your limitations.
The SSA will assess your physical (and mental) limitations and assign you a residual functional capacity (RFC) for the kind of work you can still do using the following scale:
For instance, if you can't stand for long periods because of weakness or pain caused by stomach cancer, your RFC might be for sedentary work. But if you need to take rest breaks so frequently that it disrupts your ability to be productive in even the easiest job, your RFC would likely be for "less than sedentary work."
If you can't do even sedentary work, Social Security will find there are no jobs you can still do, and you'll qualify for disability benefits under a medical-vocational allowance. Learn more about getting disability benefits through a medical-vocational allowance.
You can apply for SSDI benefits in one of three ways:
Updated November 15, 2023