Lung Cancer

The 9/11 Lung Cancer Connection

The first wave of victims in New York’s infamous terrorist attack were the workers in the Twin Towers, and the passengers on the airliners that crashed into them. The second wave were the first responders and clean-up crews who developed ‘World Trade Center Cough’ – lung disease from breathing in the foul, toxic cloud of dust.

Sadly, years after Ground Zero was cleaned up, the third wave of victims emerged. These were lower Manhattan residents, workers and responders whose cancer diagnosis has been tied to the carcinogenic air particles that lingered for months after 9/11. See a map of the 9/11 Exposure Zone. 

After a two-year ‘latency period’ following the initial exposure, lung cancer began appearing as one of the most common forms of cancer among this third wave. The abnormally large particles of airborne asbestos, concrete, and other burned building materials had lodged in peoples’ lungs, creating damage that overcame the body’s natural defenses. 

The 9/11 link prompted the inclusion of lung cancer in the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund’s list of covered illnesses. Thyroid cancer is a malignant tumour that starts in the cells of the thyroid. Malignant means that it can invade, or grow into, and destroy nearby tissue. It can also spread, or metastasize, to other parts of the body.

About Lung Cancer

 The two main functions of the lungs are to absorb oxygen from inhaled air into the blood; and to remove carbon dioxide from blood cells when we exhale.

Lung cancer is commonly associated with smoking; the foreign particles in the smoke can cause abnormal changes in the lung tissue. Initially, the body is able to repair the damage, but ongoing exposure weakens the cells beyond what the lungs can heal on their own. Tumors of out-of-control cell growth can then begin to appear. Lung cancer typically starts in the cells lining the respiratory airways, as well as in the bronchioles and alveoli.

Of the main types of lung cancer, Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer is the most common, comprising 85% of the cases. Small Cell Lung Cancer is less prevalent, and tends to spread more rapidly. Lung Carcinoid Tumors are fairly rare; they grow slowly and seldom spread.

Lung Cancer Symptoms

Symptoms of lung cancer can be due to the tumor itself, or to related blood, hormone or other problems.

Those symptoms can include coughing, coughing up blood, shortness of breath, chest pain, and frequent respiratory infections. However keep in mind that there may be other causative factors for these health issues.

Some people exhibit no symptoms at all when their 9/11 lung cancer is diagnosed; often the problem is only found when an x-ray is performed for another reason.

Lung Cancer Treatment & Prognosis

 Specific treatments for 9/11 lung cancer depend of the type of cancer it is. Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted drugs, or some combination thereof, have traditionally been the main medical defenses against the disease.

As with other cancers, treatment success and survival prognosis depend on the stage at which it is caught.

Although survival rates for lung cancer are traditionally relatively low (31% of patients with Stage 1 are expected to live 5 years or more), recent medical progress in treating 9/11 lung cancer has improved treatment success what it was just a few years ago. Surgeries that are less invasive have been shown to help patients heal quicker to resume their normal lives.

However lung cancer is prone to metastasize, or grow, into the liver, bones, adrenal glands and the brain. Treatment of those additional areas then becomes necessary, naturally complicating the overall treatment plan and reducing the survival rate.

Learn more about lung cancer from the American Cancer Society.

 Compensation for 9/11 Lung Cancer Victims

The 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (part of The Zadroga Act) offers financial reimbursement for medical expenses and related costs associated with lung cancer that was caused by the 2001 terrorist attack.

Find out more about the Victim’s Compensation Fund, eligibility, next steps, deadlines, what it covers, and more.

Actual Case Result

Financial Compensation for an actual Kreindler 9/11 VCF client:

$2 million for a FDNY fireman diagnosed with Lung Cancer