Qualifying for Disability Benefits With Breast, Ovarian, or Endometrial Cancer

If you or a woman you love has been diagnosed with cancer, there may be financial aid available for your family. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers monthly benefits for people who are unable to work for a year or more due to a serious illness. While breast, ovarian, or endometrial cancer all do not “automatically” qualify for benefits, thousands of women are eligible for assistance.

How Does the SSA Evaluate a Claim?

The SSA uses its own medical guide, known colloquially as the Blue Book, to review applicants and determine who’s eligible for Social Security disability benefits. The Blue Book contains hundreds of listings for potentially qualifying conditions, plus the medical evidence you’ll need to qualify.

If your cancer meets the required thresholds outlined in the Blue Book, you’ll be eligible for Social Security disability benefits.

How to Qualify With Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is listed in Section 13.10 of the Blue Book. To qualify under this listing, you must meet one of the following criteria:

  • Your breast cancer has spread to your collar bone, chest wall or skin, or to 10 or more auxiliary nodes
  • Your cancer has returned despite anticancer therapies
  • You have small-cell breast cancer, IBC, or metastatic breast cancer
  • You have secondary lymphedema caused by cancer treatments requiring surgery to restore function of an arm

Anyone with IBC or metastatic breast cancer will have her claim automatically expedited, as these conditions always medically qualify and warrant immediate approval.

How to Qualify With Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is listed in Section 13.23E of the Blue Book. Under this listing, there are four ways to qualify:

  • Your cancer spread beyond the pelvis (such as to the bowels, for example)
  • Your cancer has metastases to (or beyond) regional lymph nodes
  • You cancer returned despite anticancer therapies
  • You have small-cell/oat cell ovarian cancer


How to Qualify With Endometrial Cancer

Endometrial Cancer is also found in Blue Book Section 13.23. Under this listing, there are three ways to qualify:

  • The cancer has invaded adjoining organs
  • The cancer has spread beyond regional lymph nodes
  • Cancer has returned despite anticancer therapies

For any form of cancer, you’ll always qualify if your cancer has returned despite treatment (usually 3 months’ therapy is enough), has spread to another organ, or is inoperable/untreatable.

The entire Blue Book is available online, so you can review the cancer listings to get a better idea as to whether or not you’ll qualify for benefits.

Starting Your Application

The easiest way to apply for Social Security disability benefits is online on the SSA’s website. You can also apply in person at your closest Social Security office if you’d prefer. You can make an appointment to apply in person by calling your local SSA office toll-free at 1-800-772-1213. If you can find a local office phone number even better, as there’s a significantly lower wait time to get through to somebody.

Approval for disability benefits takes three to five months. Once approved, you can spend your benefits on medical bills, rent or a mortgage, utilities and groceries, or any other daily living needs.

Helpful Links

The SSA’s website: https://www.ssa.gov/

The Blue Book listing for cancer: https://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/13.00-NeoplasticDiseases-Malignant-Adult.htm

Local SSA offices: https://www.disability-benefits-help.org/social-security-disability-locations

Apply online: https://secure.ssa.gov/iClaim/dib


Contributed by Deanna Power, Director of Community Outreach at Disability Benefits Help ([email protected]).