Leukemia is a type of blood cancer that begins in the bone marrow, and is one of the 22 Specified Cancers covered by the Special Exposure Cohort (SEC) classes of the EEOICPA. Did you know that of the most common forms of Leukemia a diagnosis of SLL could have major coverage implications?
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The various forms of leukemia are divided into two categories: acute and chronic. Acute leukemias develop much more quickly and occur when a large number of leukemic cells are produced and remain in the bloodstream for a longer than normal period of time. Chronic leukemias develop over time and are characterized by slow production of leukemic cells. These cells exist in the bloodstream but are not abundant enough to inhibit the proper functionality of normal cells initially. Listed below are the four most common forms of leukemia:
Lymphoma is another type of blood cancer that occurs when the lymphocytic white blood cells, also known as lymphocytes, behave abnormally. This abnormal behavior is most commonly characterized by rapid division of cells and an increased life span. Like leukemia, these cells overcrowd healthy cells and prevent them from functioning properly. Unlike leukemia, lymphoma can develop not just in the bone marrow, but in the lymph nodes, spleen, blood, or other organs. Symptoms of lymphoma include, but are not limited to, swollen lymph nodes, enlarged spleen causing abdominal pains, fever, sudden weight loss, fatigue, and loss of appetite.
There are dozens of forms of lymphoma, but they are all categorized as either Hodgkin’s or non-Hodgkin’s. In Hodgkin’s lymphomas, the abnormal lymphocytes present are cells known as a Reed-Sternberg cell. In non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas, these Reed-Sternberg cells are not present. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas are significantly more common than Hodgkin’s lymphomas. Some of the most common non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas are:
Because both lymphoma and leukemia affect the bloodstream, they often share common characteristics, including symptoms and the way in which they manifest themselves in the body. One leukemia and one lymphoma in particular exhibit such similar characteristics that they are often considered the same disease: chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL). CLL and SLL both affect the same lymphocytes. They are essentially the same disease; however, the major difference is the primary location where the cancer occurs. CLL occurs when the cancerous cells are located in the bloodstream and bone marrow, while SLL occurs when these cells are mostly located in the lymph nodes. However, it is common in CLL and SLL for cancer cells to exist in the bloodstream, bone marrow, lymph nodes, and spleen.
A diagnosis of CLL versus SLL has major implications for claims for compensation under Part B of the Energy Employee Occupational Illness Compensation Program (the Program). Under Part B of the Program, certain atomic energy workers and their survivors are entitled to compensation of $150,000 based on their inclusion in the Special Exposure Cohort (SEC). An SEC class is issued by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) when they determine that they do not have enough adequate data and information to perform a dose reconstruction with sufficient accuracy at a given facility during a given time period. As a result, workers who were employed by the Department of Energy, its contractors or subcontractors, and atomic weapons employers who worked for at least 250 days at these facilities during these time periods are compensated without the need for a dose reconstruction to be performed. The last criteria for being included as a member of an SEC is having one of 22 specified cancer. One of the cancer excluded from this list of 22 cancers is CLL, whereas SLL is included.
Therefore, a diagnosis of CLL instead of SLL could mean the difference between $150,000 and $0. For those diagnosed with CLL, it is highly recommended that you ask your doctor about the potential for an additional diagnosis of SLL.