In the more than 20 years since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the Shanksville, Pennsylvania crash, more than 122,000 responders and survivors of 9/11 have enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Program (WTC Health Program) as of March 2022.
Types of medical conditions and diseases that victims suffer range from aerodigestive disorders and respiratory conditions, such as GERD and chronic cough syndrome to acute trauma, such as head injuries and burns. However, few conditions are as insidious as cancers. March of 2022 saw the third largest spike of new enrollees in the WTC Health Program to date. Cancer can take decades to form. According to a study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH): ”Cancer development is a complex process, and tumor progression occurs by a sequence of randomly occurring changes in genetic material by a change in cell functions such as proliferation, survival, and growth inhibition, which may take a long time.”
Female cancers recognized as 9/11-related medical condition
Cancer was not covered by the WTC Health Program until September 12, 2012, after Congressional Representatives and Senators filed a petition, noting that there was “new medical evidence showing increased cancer rates among firefighters who served at ground zero.”
Breast cancer was one of the only female cancers in the early list of certified 9/11 cancers; and was only considered a certified 9/11 disease under a restrictive set of circumstances. Specifically, exposure was required to be linked to nighttime sleep interruption caused by shift work related to World Trade Center clean-up operations in order to be a certifiable condition. It is also the most common cancer among women who were responders or survivors of the 9/11 attacks in New York. In April 2103, the female breast cancer risk factor was widened to include exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)—a known carcinogen—that was widely found in the toxic dust from the collapse of the Twin Towers.
Since then, ovarian cancer has been added to the list of 9/11 female cancers, along with rare cancers such as those affecting the vulva, vagina, and uteri cervix (invasive only).
WTC Health Program has proposed making uterine cancer a 9/11 certified disease
On May 10, 2022, the WTC Health Program announced that it is considering adding uterine cancer to its list of 9/11-certified cancers. This is based on the recommendation made in November 2021 by the Scientific/Technical Advisory Committee (STAC), the body that is consulted “regarding whether a particular health condition should be added to the List of WTC-Related Health Conditions.”
Upon the recommendation of STAC, public comments and peer reviews are “received and considered.” The deadline for comments and reviews was June 24, 2022. The next step is for the Administrator to make a final decision.
To date, “uterine cancer is the only cancer not covered by the WTC Health Program.”
If added to the list, eligible female responders and survivors who have any type of certified 9/11 uterine cancer, including estrogen-related diseases such as endometrial cancer, may be eligible to:
- Receive free, medically necessary treatment through the WTC Health Program’s Clinical Centers of Excellence or the National Provider Network (NPN)
- Have free, ongoing medical monitoring
- Get prescription benefits with WTC Health Program pharmacy partners * Be financially compensated by the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) for harm caused by a 9/11-related disease
These two federal programs offer valuable support for victims of 9/11: The medical care is provided by the WTC Health Program and, through the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, compensation may be available for both economic and non-economic losses for individuals or families of deceased individuals who suffered damages or death as a result of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Proof of a 9/11-certified medical condition is required in order to file a September 11th Victim Compensation Fund claim.
The potential link between endometrial and uterine cancer and the 9/11 toxic dust
The collapse of the World Trade Center produced a plume of dust that carried many highly dangerous chemicals, heavy metals, and cancer-causing agents.
In its report to the administrator of the World Trade Center Health Program, STAC concluded that “there is a reasonable basis for adding all types of uterine cancer to the List of WTC-related cancers.” In their letter, STAC adds that “mechanisms for carcinogenesis resulting from endogenous and exogenous exposures are similar for most cancer types. It is therefore highly implausible that uterine cancer would be the only cancer not related to WTC exposures.”
A review by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) stated that there were 287 “agents and chemical groups” in the toxic dust. These included many known or suspected carcinogens, including:
- Dioxins and furans
- Polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
- Perfluoroalkyl substances
- Volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
- Polychlorinated dibenzo-para-dioxins, and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDD/Fs)
- Diethylstilbestrol (DES)
There are two types of uterine cancer. The most common type is endometrial cancer, which develops in the lining of the inner lining of the uterus. A much rarer type is uterine sarcoma, which develops in muscle wall of the uterus called the myometrium. Uterine symptoms to be aware of include:
- In premenopausal women, vaginal bleeding between periods
- In postmenopausal women, any (even slight) vaginal bleeding or spotting
- Postmenopausal discharge that is thin, white or clear
- Lower abdominal pain or cramping
- Particularly heavy, prolonged or frequent vaginal bleeding in women more than 40 years old
Women who exhibit any of these symptoms—whether exposed to 9/11 toxic dust or not—should talk to their healthcare provider immediately. Early detection is the key to successful treatment.
Learn more about benefits you may be entitled to for 9/11 uterine cancer
Although uterine/endometrial cancer has not been added to the list of certified medical conditions, it is worth finding out what medical and financial benefits you may be able to receive. While awaiting a final ruling by the WTC Health Program administrator, the attorneys at Weisfuse &Weisfuse, LLP can help by discussing your options and answering your questions. To schedule a no-cost consultation to learn more about how we may be able to help you get the benefits you deserve, contact us online or call us at 332-239-2238.