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Lung cancers are, unfortunately, yet another common cancer seen in claims before the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.  Extended exposure to toxins such as asbestos and dioxins left many 9/11 first responders, clean-up workers and those who lived or worked in the area, fighting a courageous battle with lung cancer.

Downtown Manhattan residents and downtown workers below Canal Street are also eligible for compensation and health benefits under the 9/11 Zadroga Act. First responders were not the only victims—New York State accountant, Jerry Borg, who worked in a building blocks away from the Twin Towers, died in December, 2010 of an inflammatory disease of the lungs. Borg was ruled the 2,753rd victim of 9/11, following his death.

In addition, the large amount of asbestos at Ground Zero after the WTC attacks has led to an increase in mesothelioma cancer claims before the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund.  In fact, in the dust samples collected by the EPA in the first week following 9/11, a full one-quarter showed asbestos at levels indicating a significant risk. For detailed studies about the amount of toxins found in the 9/11 dust, see Dr. Paul . J. Lioy’s seminal book about the toxins in the 9/11 dust,  “Dust”, published in 2010.

Also inside the two towers were heavy metals such as lead, polychlorinated biphenyls used in electrical transformers, and glass fibers which lodged in the lungs of many in the area. Further, the levels of dioxin measured in the air near the World Trade Center were the “highest ambient measurements of dioxin ever recorded” in the world—at least 100 times higher than those found downwind of a garbage incinerator.  The “9/11 cough” that so many suffered from, was largely due to the drywall and cement which showered down on Lower Manhattan. First responders, rescue workers and those cleaning up the areas were literally bathed in the toxic dust.

Unfortunately, respirators were either not used at all, or were often used incorrectly—many did not wear the respirators because they found it very difficult to communicate with the bulky face mask in place. Ground Zero smoldered until December 19th, releasing harmful, toxic fumes. As a result, 9/11 lung cancer and mesothelioma cases are likely to increase in the future.

Seventy different types of cancers are covered under the 9/11 Zadroga Act for medical care under the World Trade Center Health Program, as well as for victim compensation under the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.

Recognizing Lung/Bronchus Cancer

It stands to reason that the first responders and others covered under the 9/11 Zadroga Act who spent time breathing toxic fumes following 9/11 could end up with lung and bronchial problems. In 2016, across the nation, there were 224,390 new cases of lung cancer, making up about 13.3 percent of all new cancer cases. Worse, there were 158,080 deaths from lung cancer in 2016, representing 26.5 percent of the total deaths from cancer. Setting aside direct exposure to lung toxins, about 6.5 percent of adults in the United States will be diagnosed with lung and bronchus cancer at some point in their lifetime.

Symptoms associated with lung cancer include:

·         A persistent cough;

·         Coughing up blood;

·         Shortness of breath;

·         Unexplained weight loss;

·         Difficulty swallowing;

·         Fatigue;

·         Hoarseness;

·         Loss of appetite, and

·         Weakness.

Diagnosing Lung/Bronchus Cancer

A doctor will use a stethoscope to listen to a patient’s lungs, with a goal of determining whether there is fluid around the lungs. Other tests a doctor may use to diagnose lung or bronchus cancer include a sputum test, a biopsy, imaging tests such as PET scans, CT scans, MRI’s and X-rays, a bronchoscopy, which allows the doctors to see abnormal areas of the lungs, and/or a mediastinoscopy, in which a lighted tub is inserted through a small incision in the center of the chest cavity to view the lungs.

9/11 first responders, downtown workers and downtown residents diagnosed with lung cancer should call our office to discuss the benefits of getting their  condition certified as 9/11 related by the World Trade Center Health Program.

Read here for more information on the World Trade Center Health Program.

The Stages of 9/11 Related Lung Cancers

If a doctor diagnoses his or her patient with lung cancer, the next step will be to determine whether the malignancy has spread beyond the lungs. It is most common for lung cancer to metastasize to the liver, brain and bones.

  • Stage 1 lung cancer is limited to the lungs, and has not spread. At this stage, the lung cancer is generally smaller than two inches.
  • Stage 2 lung cancer tumor may be larger than 2 inches and may involve nearby structures, including the lining of the lungs, the lymph nodes and the diaphragm.
  • Stage 3 lung cancer tumor may be fairly large, and involve other vital organs which are near the lungs.
  • Stage 4 lung cancer tumors have spread beyond the lung to distant areas of the body. Treatment will depend on the overall health of the patient, the patient’s age, the type and stage of the cancer and whether the cancer has spread. Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy and other targeted cancer drugs are used to treat lung cancer.

General Outlook for Patients with Lung Cancer

Those diagnosed with stage 1 lung cancer have a 58-73 percent five-year survival rate. Those diagnosed with stage 2 lung cancer have a 36-46 percent five-year survival rate, while those with stage 3 lung cancer have a 19-24 percent five-year survival rate. Finally, those diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer have only a 2-13 percent five-year survival rate.

The World Trade Center Health Program Clinical Centers of Excellence treat all 9/11-related cancers, including lung cancer. The attorneys at Turley Hansen have represented many clients with lung cancer or mesothelioma related to the 9/11 toxic dust fumes. If you have questions regarding your medical care or about an award for lung cancer from the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, please call Turley Hansen, LLP at 1-855-WTC-INFO (1-855-982-4636).