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Getting Long-Term Disability (LTD) Benefits for Melanoma

Being diagnosed with a life-threatening condition such as melanoma can cause significant changes in your life.  Thankfully, having long-term disability (LTD) coverage will allow you to focus on your health and treatment, knowing that a part of your income is protected.  Unfortunately, insurance companies are too often motivated by their own financial interests and wrongful denials of benefits are common.

You have enough on your plate without having the added stress of fighting with the insurance company to obtain your long-term disability benefits.  At Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick, we can take the burden of dealing with the insurance company off you.  Our team of attorneys and professionals have experience appealing wrongful denials made by various insurance companies.

Contact us today at 401-331-6300 for a FREE consultation and let us fight for you.

Understanding Melanoma

Melanoma is a serious form of skin cancer that develops in the cells, known as melanocytes, that produce melanin, the pigment that gives your skin its color.  While melanoma is less common than other types of skin cancer, such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, it is much more dangerous because of its ability to quickly spread to the organs or other areas of the body.  As a result, there is 99 percent 5-year survival rate if melanoma is detected early, but that percentage drops to 65 percent if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, and only 25 percent if it has spread to distant organs.

Warning Signs and Symptoms

Because of its ability to rapidly spread to other organs, it is important to know and understand the warning signs and symptoms of melanoma, so that you can identify it, see a physician, and begin treatment as soon as possible.  Typically, the first signs of melanoma are changes in an existing mole or the development of a new and unusual growth.  In order to help you identify the characteristics of a potentially dangerous mole or growth, remember the acronym “ABCDE.”

  • A – Asymmetrical Shape: You should look for moles or growths that have an irregular shape or two halves that do not match.
  • B – Irregular Border: Melanomas commonly have irregular, notched, or scalloped borders, that tend to be uneven.
  • C – Changes in Color: If a mole has multiple colors, such as different shades of brown, tan, or black, it may be a melanoma. As the cancer continues to grow, red, white, or blue may also appear.
  • D – Diameter: The goal is to catch a melanoma when it is small and before it starts to spread. However, the warning sign is when the lesion becomes ¼ inch in diameter (about the size of a pencil eraser) or larger.
  • E – Evolving: You should keep an eye on any moles you have and pay attention if they start to grow, change color or shape, or develop new symptoms such as itching, crusting, or bleeding.

While these are some helpful tips to try and detect melanoma early, cancerous moles can vary greatly in appearance, size, and location.  It is important to have routine check-ups and follow-ups with a dermatologist to maximize your chances of finding any cancerous growths as quickly as possible.

Treatment Options

Getting diagnosed with melanoma at any stage can be a frightening experience.  Thankfully, there are various treatment methods that can work to remove the cancer or give you a better quality of life and increase your chances of survival.  Your treatment options will vary based on how far the melanoma has progressed at the time you are diagnosed.

If caught quickly enough, there is a chance that the melanoma can be surgically removed and no further treatment is required.  In more advanced stage melanomas where the cancer has spread to other areas of the body, additional therapies will likely be needed to treat the condition, in addition to surgical removal of the original tumor.  One such therapy is immunotherapy, a new treatment option that stimulates your immune system in order to destroy the cancer cells.  Another treatment option is targeted therapy.  Rather than affecting healthy cells, this type of therapy targets the cancer cells specifically and inhibits the defective cancer genes that typically accelerate the growth and spread of melanoma.  This type of therapy may not be effective in all melanoma cells, however, when it is successful, it typically slows the progression of the disease and can lead to a longer life.  Lastly, methods like chemotherapy and radiation therapy can also be used to treat melanoma.  Chemotherapy uses drugs, either in pill form or intravenously, to kill cancer cells and/or prevent them from multiplying.

Unfortunately, chemotherapy can have serious side effects and many doctors have shied away from using it to treat melanoma and other cancers.  Radiation therapy utilizes high-powered energy beams in order to kill cancer cells in a localized area of the body.  With respect to melanoma, radiation therapy would most likely be used for melanomas with a high risk of recurrence, melanomas that have returned, or melanomas that have spread to another area of the body.

Becoming Disabled from Melanoma

While you may hope to continue working while treating your melanoma, you may eventually find yourself in a position where this becomes impossible.  While the melanoma may not be disabling on its own, the therapies that are used for treatment often come with debilitating side effects that may leave you unable to work.  For example, most of these treatments cause chronic fatigue, which would leave you with less energy during the day and may require you to take frequent breaks or naps, rendering you unable to perform your work efficiently.

Another common side effect, specifically from chemotherapy, is peripheral neuropathy in the upper or lower extremities.  This side effect causes numbness, weakness, and pain in the affected areas and can impact your ability to stand or walk, as well as interfere with fine manipulation tasks like typing and writing, depending on which area of the body is affected.  Additionally, immunotherapy and targeted therapies can cause headaches, muscle aches, and general malaise that can lead to reduced stamina, pain that is distracting, and certain physical limitations like being unable to sit for most of the day.  Lastly, many of these treatment options are accompanied by cognitive difficulties, commonly referred to as “chemo brain,” that may impact your ability to concentrate, multitask, remember, and pay attention to detail.

Long-Term Disability Claim Wrongfully Denied? CCK Can Help.

The first thing we will do is review the denial letter from the insurance company, as well as gather and analyze your complete claim file, to identify any errors that the insurance company made during the handling of your claim.  The insurance company must follow certain rules under ERISA and, oftentimes, they mishandle the claims process or ignore evidence demonstrating your inability to work.

Next, we will gather your medical records from your treatment providers.  It is important to have good communication with your providers and have doctors who are willing to support your claim and complete disability forms or write reports on your behalf.  Most doctors want to help, however, they are often busy with the demands associated with managing multiple patients.  It is good practice to communicate openly with your doctors and ensure that your medical records are accurately documenting your condition and symptoms.  Some of the objective evidence we look for in records are exam findings, diagnostic imaging, medication changes and side effects, and your own reports about your condition and how it impacts your ability to function.

Unfortunately, medical records alone are usually not enough to win a long-term disability appeal.  In most cases, we gather additional reports from your treating doctors, additional testing and results, opinions from outside experts, and/or witness statements from you and your family, friends, or co-workers.  At CCK, we will help facilitate the flow of information, taking the burden off you and your doctors, and make sure we have strong, objective evidence that demonstrates your inability to work.  This is especially important in ERISA-governed claims because the appeal is often the claimant’s last opportunity to get evidence into the record before an appeal to Court.

Call Today to Speak with a Member of Our Team for a Free Consultation

Unfortunately, insurance companies are powerful entities that are often motivated by their own financial interests.  CCK can help you fight the insurance company and level the playing field by using our knowledge and experience with ERISA, the U.S. Department of Labor Regulations, and various insurance policies.  We take a comprehensive approach to long-term disability appeals, gathering supportive evidence that objectively demonstrates your disability and writing a strong appeal based on that evidence.

Let us help you. Call Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick today at 401-331-6300 for a FREE consultation to see if we can fight for you.