Additional forms of WTC Cancer
Although less common, the forms of VCF-eligible cancer below have been linked in some people to the cloud of toxins that filled lower Manhattan when the twin towers fell. Kreindler has represented 9/11 victims with many of these types of cancer.
Plasma cells are white blood cells that continually work within the bone marrow to make antibodies. A malignant or cancerous plasma cell is known as a myeloma cell. The malady is often called ‘multiple myeloma’ because it can appear, and grow, in several areas within the bone.
Myeloma may present as a tumor, as well as an area of bone loss. These occur in hollow areas of bone where the marrow is active, including the skull, spine, rib cage, pelvis, shoulders and hips.
As with many forms of 9/11 cancer, early detection offers the opportunity for more treatment options. Although there may be no symptoms at all, pain in the back, hips or skull can be indicators. Bone weakness or easily broken bones can also point to Myeloma, but naturally tests can be performed to rule out other causes.
Common in multiple myeloma are shortages of red blood cells, white blood cells, and blood platelets. The results can be reduced resistance to infections, as well as increased bleeding from even minor cuts and scrapes.
Surprisingly, tonsil cancer can develop whether or not the person has previously had their tonsils removed, since even during that surgery, traces of tonsil tissue may have been left behind.
Traditionally, tobacco has been a major risk factor for tonsil cancer, but the same sensitivity to the ingredients of burning tobacco smoke may have been vulnerable to the burning cloud of toxins that enveloped downtown Manhattan on September 11, 2001.
Tonsils are made up of lymph tissue, which in turn is made up of white blood cells. That small mass normally sits at the back of the throat to help protect against incoming infection.
A persistent sore throat can be one of the first signs of tonsil cancer, although of course there are many other causes of sore throats. The person is usually first treated for tonsil infection, but if the antibiotics don’t work, a biopsy may be called for to determine the possibility of cancer. Tonsil cancer can also spread to the lymph nodes.
Also commonly known as Hodgkin’s Disease, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma begins with the abnormal growth of lymphocytes – a type of white blood cell that is a part of the body’s immune system. That abnormal growth may eventually spread into other parts of the body beyond the lymphatic system (which consists of lymph nodes, spleen, bone marrow, etc.).
The body’s normal ability to fight infection is impacted by the progression of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, putting the person at risk for a variety of infections that they would otherwise easily fend off. Unfortunately, there is no benign form of Hodgkin’s.
Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is a specific type of lymphoma that should not be confused with the several types of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Non-Hodgkin’s is much more common in the population as a whole, as well as among 9/11 responders and lower Manhattan residents after the attack.
There are a number of factors that affect each individual’s prognosis, but Hodgkin’s lymphoma is considered more treatable than non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, with the former generally offering a higher survival rate.
The oropharynx includes the side and back walls of the throat, the soft palate, the back third of the tongue, and the tonsils. Cancer can appear in these tissues, traditionally as a result of smoking (especially combined with heavy alcohol use), exposure (including sexual contact) to the human papillomavirus (HPV), or poor nutrition.
Early symptoms of oropharynx cancer include a lump in the neck, a sore on the mouth, or a persistent sore throat; however these may also be the result of other factors. Older men are generally more at risk for this type of cancer.
Those who breathed in the toxic smoke that accompanied the fall of the twin towers have been found to be at a higher risk of oropharynx cancer. That smoke has been found to include a number of carcinogens.
As with almost all other forms of WTC cancer, early detection generally leads to a better prognosis. Screening by a doctor can often detect this type of cancer before any symptoms are noticed.
There is a thin layer of tissue that envelopes most internal human organs called the mesothelium. Those who have been exposed to airborne asbestos have been found to be most at risk for mesothelioma, which is cancer of the mesothelium.
Unfortunately, the toxic cloud that was pervasive throughout the downtown New York ‘exposure zone’ contained significant amounts of asbestos fibers combined with burning jet fuel – a particularly dangerous mix. Many people in the area, including first responders, could not avoid inhaling or swallowing this unhealthy air.
As with many forms of WTC cancer, there is a ‘latency period’ between the time that a person is exposed to a carcinogen, and the time that the cancer may appear. This is one of the reasons that the Zadroga Act was re-authorized, and extended to cover people other than 9/11 responders and clean-up crews.
Ordinarily, mesothelioma is relatively rare. When it does occur, it is most likely to be found in the lining surrounding the lungs. That is why mesothelioma is sometimes misdiagnosed as lung cancer.
There are a number of different types of cancer in this category, including pharynx cancer (throat), larynx cancer (voice box), oral cancer (tongue, gums, lips, inside of the mouth), sinus (cavities within the bones of the face) and salivary gland (at the bottom of the outh).
The toxic fumes inhaled by rescue workers and others during and after the 9/11 attacks appear to have made them more susceptible to this form of cancer.
Most cancers of the head and neck begin in the layer of ‘squamous cells’ that line the surface of various structures. It may or may not spread into the next layer, known as the mucosa, or into even deeper tissue.
Treatment of various types of head and neck cancer may include chemotherapy or radiation therapy, as well as surgery and radiotherapy. As always with cancer, early detection is key, so if you suspect a problem, schedule a screening with your physician.
The pancreas is a long, flat gland found deep in the abdomen. It is an important part of the digestive system and helps control blood sugar levels. Since it is buried deep in the body, symptoms of pancreatic cancer may not be apparent until the tumor has grown large enough to impact its function, or other nearby organs such as the stomach or liver.
Pancreatic cancer has been found to be more prevalent in WTC responders and survivors. Sadly, pancreatic cancer has a relatively high mortality rate.
Treatment may include surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy, or some combination of those. As is typically the case with cancer, the further the disease has spread, the harder it is to treat.
Generally, pancreatic cancer is more prevalent among older people, and among men more than women. Obesity, alcohol use, diabetes, smoking and poor diet are considered risk factors. However each person is different, and various risk factors may or may not be significant contributors in each case.
The toxic smoke from the 9/11 attacks was inevitably ingested into the stomachs of many people who were present. In some cases, after a ‘latency period’, the eventual result was stomach cancer. First responders have been most susceptible, but residents and workers in lower Manhattan at the time may also be at risk.
Most, but not all, stomach cancers begin in the glandular tissue that forms a lining on the inside of the stomach. That cancer may or may not spread to surrounding areas, including lymph nodes. As with other types of cancer, healthy cells become abnormal and start to grow out of control.
Common treatments for stomach cancer include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. As is often the case, early detection is key.
Sadly, the survival rate for stomach cancer in the U.S. is somewhat lower than some other forms for cancer. One of the reasons for this is typically late detection. However with ongoing medical advances, that statistic is improving.
The esophagus is a hollow tube that connects the throat to the stomach. It is lined with muscles that help us swallow, and is typically about 10 inches long.
This type of cancer begins to become more serious when it spreads to the lymph nodes, or to blood vessels that supply nutrients to nearby organs.
There are two main types of esophageal cancer: The most common is squamous cell carcinoma, which begins in the cells that line the esophagus (and tends to grow outward), and Adenocarcinoma, which starts in the glandular tissue in the lower esophagus.
Those who were present when the twin towers collapsed were more likely to be victims of the first type, since the cloud of dust produced was inevitably swallowed. Since that dust contained carcinogens, it had a chance to affect the lining of the esophagus. As is often the case, cancer may appear years after the exposure to carcinogens.
This type of cancer is relatively rare, but it has been found in several WTC responders as well as survivors. Sarcoma can develop in muscle, fat, nerves, tendons or deep skin tissues. It can also be found in bone.
Like most other types of tumors, soft tissue tumors known as sarcoma can be either malignant, which means it can grow and spread to other areas of the body, or benign, meaning it grows but doesn’t spread. Typically, sarcoma begins either in an arm or leg, or in the abdomen.
Soft tissue sarcoma can often go undetected, because it is so small at first. But as it grows, it can impact the normal functioning of the part of the body in which it appears.
There are actually about 50 types of sarcoma, which are often grouped together as one ‘family’ of disease. Some examples are angiosarcoma (cancer of blood or lymph vessels), fibrosarcoma (cancer of connective tissue) and rhabdomyosarcoma (cancer of skeletal muscles).
Ovarian cancer is not a common form of cancer in either the general population or among 9/11 survivors. However if it is not detected early, it can be more serious than other types. Of course, it is only found in women.
A woman’s ovaries produce eggs to await fertilization, as well as the hormones progesterone and estrogen, throughout her child-bearing years.
As long as the cancer remains confined to the ovaries, it has been found to be easier to treat, with a better chance of recovery. The main treatment therapies are chemotherapy and surgery. However ovarian cancer is typically difficult to detect, and displays few symptoms, at its early stages.
As it progresses, symptoms may include abdominal pain and bloating, back pain, menstrual irregularities and fatigue. Women with these symptoms should be examined by their physician to rule out the many other possible causes of these symptoms, including ovarian cysts, which are not typically cancerous.
Note: The material on this page is offered for informational purposes only, and s not meant to suggest a diagnosis in individual cases. Contact your doctor, or the World Trade Center Health Program, for a medical diagnosis and medical advice.
Are you eligible for compensation from the VCF?
If you were in the exposure zone in lower Manhattan during or soon after 9/11, and have been diagnosed with any of these forms of cancer, call Kreindler at 877-505-0090 to find out if you’re eligible for financial awards to cover medical as well as ‘intangible’ costs.
If you suspect you may have cancer, but have not received a diagnosis, contact your doctor or the World Trade Center Health Program.