Can I Get Social Security Benefits for Cancer of My Central Nervous System?


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The central nervous system controls the body. It is made up of the spinal cord and the brain.

The brain is the ultimate sensory receptor. It tells us what we are seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching. It is made up of the cerebrum, the cerebellum, and the brain stem; each plays its own purpose in the overall workings of the brain.

The spinal cord is what keeps the brain informed about what is happening with the other organs; it sends signals between the brain and the rest of the body.

Cancer in the central nervous system begins when the cells in the brain or spinal cord become abnormal. They begin to multiply and form a mass—this mass is known as a tumor. A benign tumor is one that is not cancerous and does not spread. A malignant tumor is one that is cancerous and has the potential to spread.

Tumors that begin in the brain are known as primary brain tumors. They are distinct from tumors that begin in other organs and then spread to the brain. Brain and spinal cord tumors do not tend to spread.

The different types of brain and spinal cord tumors include:

  • Meningiomas
    • Meningiomas begin in the layers of tissue that wrap around the outermost part of the spinal cord and brain. They are the most common brain tumors in adults.
    • They are classified in grades. The lower the grade, the lower the risk. Grade III (the highest grade) meningiomas look abnormal, tend to grow quickly, and are more likely to come back after surgery.
  • Ependymomas
    • Ependymomas begin in ependymal cells. Ependymomas can spread through cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), a colorless liquid that circulates around the brain and the spine.
    • Ependymomas blocks CSF from leaving the fluid-filled cavities in the center of the brain, causing them to become enlarged.
    • Ependymomas usually do not develop into normal brain tissue and are relatively easy to be removed through surgery.
  • Astrocytomas
    • These tumors begin in cells called astrocytes. These tumors can blend with normal brain tissue, which makes them difficult to remove through surgery.
    • They are also classified in grades. The lower the grade, the lower the risk. High-grade astrocytomas are fast-growing and they are the most deadly tumors in adults.
  • Medulloblatomas
    • These tumors begin in the cerebellum. They grow quickly, but can be removed through surgery.
  • Oliogodendrogliomas
    • Oliogodentrogliomas tumors begin in the cells that cover the spinal cord in a layer that helps it conduct nerve messages. They grow slowly and infect brain tissue to a point that surgery alone cannot completely remove it.
    • They can become more harmful to your health over time, but they do not tend to spread beyond the spinal cord or the brain.

 Common Symptoms of Brain or Spinal Cord Tumors

  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of balance
  • Headache
  • Seizures
  • Fatigue
  • Change in behavior
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea

If your headache is getting worse with time, it could be a sign of a brain tumor. Having seizures is also one of the first signs of a brain tumor.

Social Security Benefits and Central Nervous System Cancer

 Brain cancer is listed under the Social Security’s benefits requirement. More specifically, you are qualified if you have:

  • A tumor that is malignant in the brain, spinal cord, or root
  • A tumor that has continued to develop even after initial treatment

Objective medical evidence is required to prove your cancer. These include, but are not limited to: lab results, doctors notes, radiology reports, etc.

If your diagnosed central nervous system cancer does not meet the above standards, don’t dismiss your claim. If you feel that you cannot work your job (need constant breaks, can’t lift heavy objects, etc.) because of your disease, the SSA will consider your application.

Sources: Cancer.orgCancer.netChristopher Reeve

Photo “human brain on white background” copyright by DJ.