Kidney Cancer and Long Term Disability: What You Need to Know

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Can I qualify for long term disability due to kidney cancer?

Cancer woman lying in bed supported by mumYes, kidney cancer can qualify you for long term disability. If you have kidney cancer and long term disability insurance coverage, you may be eligible for benefits, depending on the terms of your policy.  When filing a claim, your insurer typically considers the severity of your condition, its impact on your ability to perform your job duties, and whether you have sufficient supporting medical and vocational evidence.

Below we’ll discuss the ways kidney cancer causes disability and tips for filing a long term disability claim for kidney cancer.

How does kidney cancer cause disability?

The severity of kidney cancer and its associated treatments can significantly impact your ability to perform your occupational duties.  In addition, the side effects of cancer treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy can have long-lasting effects on your physical and functional abilities.  The impact of kidney cancer on your ability to work varies depending on factors such as the stage of your cancer and the specific treatment received.

Below are the physical and cognitive symptoms that may occur due to kidney cancer and side effects of cancer treatments.

Physical Disabling Symptoms of Kidney Cancer

Physical disabling symptoms of kidney cancer may include:

    • Severe pain in the side and back;
    • Impaired kidney function;
    • Fatigue and weakness;
    • Loss of mobility;
    • Swollen legs and/or ankles;
    • Complications from treatments

Cancer Treatment Side Effects

Cancer Treatment - Medical Concept with Red Pills, Injections and Syringe. Selective Focus. 3D Render.

Treatments for kidney cancer, while effective, may come with side effects that make it impossible to work.  Here are some common treatments for kidney cancer and their potential disabling side effects:

    • Surgery: Surgical interventions, such as a radical nephrectomy (complete removal of the affected kidney), can lead to physical limitations and complications.  Post-surgery, you may experience pain, wound healing issues, infection, and reduced mobility during the recovery period.  In some cases, the removal of both kidneys or extensive surgical procedures may necessitate lifelong dialysis or a kidney transplant, which may significantly impact your ability to carry out daily activities, including work.
    • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy drugs, although less commonly used for kidney cancer, can be employed in certain cases.  Chemotherapy may cause systemic side effects such as fatigue, nausea, vomiting, hair loss, decreased appetite, brain fog, and a weakened immune system.  These side effects can result in significant fatigue, making it difficult to maintain regular employment.
    • Targeted Therapy: Targeted therapies are drugs that specifically target cancer cells or specific pathways involved in tumor growth.  While these therapies can be effective in controlling the progression of kidney cancer, they may also lead to adverse effects such as fatigue, gastrointestinal issues (nausea, diarrhea), skin rashes, hypertension, and changes in liver or kidney function.  These side effects can affect your energy levels and cognitive function.
    • Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy, including immune checkpoint inhibitors, works by boosting the body’s immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells.  Immunotherapy can cause side effects that range from mild to severe, including fatigue, skin rashes, flu-like symptoms, gastrointestinal issues, thyroid dysfunction, and less commonly, autoimmune reactions that affect various organs.  Severe immune-related adverse events can lead to hospitalization and long-term complications, impacting daily functioning and employment.
    • Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy utilizes high-energy X-rays or other radiation sources to kill cancer cells or shrink tumors.  Side effects of radiation therapy for kidney cancer may include fatigue, skin reactions, nausea, diarrhea, and urinary problems.  Depending on the location and extent of radiation, it can also affect nearby healthy tissues, leading to long-term complications such as fibrosis, scarring, or damage to organs or blood vessels, which may impair physical function.

Stages of Kidney Cancer

Kidney cancer is staged based on the extent of the disease and how far it has spread.  The most commonly used staging system for kidney cancer is the TNM system, which stands for Tumor, Node, and Metastasis.  Staging is typically determined through a combination of imaging tests (such as CT scans, MRI, or PET scans) and sometimes surgical exploration or biopsy.

The stages of kidney cancer include:

    • Stage 1: At this stage, the tumor is contained to the kidney and measures up to 7 centimeters (about 2.75 inches) in its largest dimension.  It has not spread to nearby lymph nodes or distant organs.
    • Stage 2: The tumor is still confined to the kidney but is larger than in Stage 1.  It can be larger than 7 centimeters but still has not spread to nearby lymph nodes or distant organs.
    • Stage 3: Stage 3 is divided into two subcategories.  In Stage 3A, the tumor has either grown into major veins leading out of the kidney or has invaded nearby tissues, such as the adrenal gland or surrounding fatty tissues.  It has not spread to nearby lymph nodes or distant organs.  Stage 3B indicates that the tumor has spread to nearby lymph nodes but has not yet spread to distant organs.
    • Stage 4: This is the most advanced stage of kidney cancer, indicating that the tumor has spread beyond the kidney to distant organs or distant lymph nodes.  Stage 4 is further divided into two subcategories.  Stage 4A indicates that the tumor has spread to one or more nearby lymph nodes and may have invaded nearby structures or organs.  Stage 4B means the cancer has spread to distant sites, such as distant lymph nodes, bones, liver, lungs, or other organs.


How do I prove to my insurer that my kidney cancer is disabling?

Female doctor holding notepad with blue background

Proving kidney cancer disability to your insurer requires presenting thorough and compelling evidence that demonstrates the impact of the disease on your ability to work.  A diagnosis alone will not be enough to get your long term disability benefits approved.  Your insurer will want documentation of your symptoms, their severity and frequency, and proof that they impede your ability to work.

Medical Evidence for Kidney Cancer Disability

Some of the most essential evidence you can put forth for a kidney cancer long term disability claim is medical evidence.  Your insurer will require objective evidence supporting your diagnosis and symptoms.  Medical records you may include with your claim include:

    • Imaging scans, such as computed tomography (“CT”) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (“MRI”) scans, or positron emission tomography (“PET”) scans that provide detailed images of the kidneys and surrounding tissues;
    • Biopsy results, including histopathology reports, confirming your diagnosis, type and stage of kidney cancer;
    • Office visit notes from your healthcare providers that document the ongoing management of your kidney cancer, including findings from physical examinations, evaluations of treatment response, and adjustments in treatment plans;
    • Treatment records, including surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapies, or immunotherapies, that outline your treatment dates, medications administered, dosages, and any adverse reactions or complications you’ve experienced;
    • Statements or letters from your treating physicians that detail the specifics of your kidney cancer, its stage, any associated complications, and the resulting functional limitations that affect your ability to work.


Additional Testing Options

Beyond your medical records from your treating providers, you may consider undergoing additional testing to further substantiate your claim.

Functional Capacity Evaluation

If you have physical symptoms due to your kidney cancer, you may consider undergoing a Functional Capacity Evaluation (“FCE”).  The FCE assesses your physical functioning (including strength, endurance, mobility, and range of motion) and demonstrates any physical restrictions you have resulting from kidney cancer, surgeries, or other treatments.  This includes any limitations in functions such as lifting, carrying, standing, walking, hand dexterity, or grip strength.  The results of the FCE, along with accompanying expert analysis, can be valuable objective evidence to demonstrate the impact of kidney cancer on your ability to perform work-related activities.

Neuropsychological Evaluation

Many people experience cognitive impairment due to kidney cancer and/or treatment such as chemotherapy.  In these cases, a Neuropsychological Evaluation may be beneficial to support your disability claim.  The Neuropsychological Evaluation focuses on assessing cognitive functions and behavioral changes that can occur as a result of kidney cancer or its treatments.  A Neuropsychological Evaluation can assess these cognitive changes, including memory, attention, concentration, and processing speed.  The evaluation is typically conducted by a neuropsychologist.  Their professional opinion, along with the results of the evaluation, can carry significant weight in supporting your claim.


How can an attorney help me get long term disability for kidney cancer?

Dealing with your disability insurer can be confusing, exhausting, and stressful, especially when you’re managing a serious condition such as kidney cancer.  Riemer Hess has over 25 years of experience helping our clients secure long term disability benefits.  We understand what evidence your insurer will require to approve your claim and how to avoid any common mistakes made during the claims process.  Our goal is always to make the process as seamless and stress-free as possible while maximizing your chances of success with your insurer.

At Riemer Hess, our experienced ERISA attorneys understand the disability insurance claim process and what your insurance company will look for, whether you’re filing a claimappealing a wrongful denial, or looking to litigate with your insurance company.  We have assisted numerous clients with kidney cancer disability claims.  To arrange a consultation with lawyers at Riemer Hess, call us at 212-297-0700 or click the button below to schedule an exploratory call.

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