Disability Benefits for Uterine or Ovarian Cancer

Learn about getting disability benefits from Social Security on the basis of uterine or ovarian cancer.

If cancer cells begin growing in your uterus, that is called uterine cancer, and if the cells start growing in your ovaries, that is known as ovarian cancer. The most common symptom of uterine cancer is abnormal vaginal bleeding and pain in the pelvis. Uterine cancer can occur at any age but is more common the older a woman gets. Most women are diagnosed with uterine cancer when they are going through, or have gone through, menopause.

Symptoms of ovarian cancer are often attributed to other conditions and include: bloating, stomach or pelvic pain, constipation, indigestion, swollen stomach, back pain, and weight change.

Qualifying for Disability for Uterine or Ovarian Cancer

In this article we are discussing disability benefits through the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program or the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. Both programs are operated by the Social Security Administration (SSA). You can qualify for disability automatically under either program if you meet the severity requirements in the SSA's disability listing for "cancer of the female genital tract." If you don't, you could still be approved for disability benefits if you can show the SSA that your symptoms or anti-cancer treatment limit your functioning so much that there are no jobs that you can do.

Disability Listing for Cancer of the Female Genital Tract

Both uterine and ovarian cancers are discussed under Listing 13.23: Cancers of the Female Genital Tract in the SSA's Blue Book. If you have been diagnosed with either uterine or ovarian cancer and the severity descriptions below apply to your diagnosis of cancer, your condition will be considered severe enough to “meet the listing” for cancer of the female genital tract.

  • Uterine cancer of the corpus (an adenocarcinoma in the main body of the uterus) that meets at least one of the following three criteria:

    • The cancer invades adjoining organs.
    • The cancer has metastasized to or beyond regional lymph nodes.
    • The cancer is persistent or recurs after initial anticancer treatment.
  • Uterine cancer of the cervix (usually a squamous cell carcinoma) that meets at least one of the following two criteria:

    • The cancer extends to the pelvic wall, the lower portion of the vagina, or to adjacent or distant organs.
    • The cancer is persistent or recurs after initial anticancer treatment.
  • Ovarian cancer with germ cell tumors (dysgerminomas, teratomas, choriocarcinomas, or embryonal cell carcinomas) that are either:

    • progressive or
    • recurrent after initial anticancer treatment.
  • Ovarian cancer with non-germ cell tumors (usually carcinomas) with at least one of the following:

    • Tumor extension beyond the pelvis.
    • Cancer that has metastasized to or beyond regional lymph nodes.
    • Cancer that is recurrent after the initial anticancer treatment.

Note that any type of uterine or ovarian cancer that re-occurs or persists after treatment means an automatic approval of disability benefits. For more information on the requirements regarding recurrent or metastasized tumors, see Nolo's article on what stages of cancer qualify for disability benefits.

In addition, note that early stage (in situ) uterine or ovarian cancers does not qualify for benefits, since they are usually cured with surgery.

Compassionate Allowance for Certain Uterine or Ovarian Cancers

If you are diagnosed with one of the more serious types of uterine or ovarian cancer, you'll be eligible for the compassionate allowance program. This means SSA will expedite your application for disability. Here are the compassionate allowance conditions for uterine and ovarian cancer. As long as your medical records support one of the diagnoses below, you will be approved for disability benefits (or "allowed").

  • Small cell cancer of the uterus or uterine cervix.
  • Small cell ovarian cancer.
  • Ovarian cancer with non-germ cell tumors that meet the listing requirement above.
  • Ovarian cancer with germ cell tumors that are progressive or recurrent after initial treatment.

Medical Evidence Required

Your doctor’s diagnosis of uterine or ovarian cancer has to be based a pathology report detailing the findings of a biopsy that shows the presence of cancer in your ovaries or uterus. Your medical record can also include blood tests, CT scans, and ultrasounds. The findings of the pathologist who examined your tissue samples must be included.

If your cancer persists after treatment, your medical record should include a biopsy, MRI, or CT scan that proves a recurrence of cancer.

Residual Functional Capacity

If you have a diagnosis of uterine or ovarian cancer, but you do not meet any of the criteria listed above to “meet the listing” or qualify as a compassionate allowance condition, the SSA will look at your “residual functional capacity,” or “RFC.” Your RFC is what kind of work activities you can do despite your cancer and treatment. The RFC assessment is used by the SSA to determine whether you are capable of performing your prior job or any other kind of work. For example, if you suffer from complications from radiation treatment that leave you with problems with digestion or walking, these would be included in your RFC as functional limitations. But if you have had laser surgery or a hysterectomy and no other problems, you most likely won't have any functional limitations.

If the SSA determines that the symptoms associated with your cancer and treatment are so limiting that there is no job you can perform, you will be awarded benefits under what is called a “medical-vocational allowance.”

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