• 9/11 Victim Programs
  • Victim Compensation Fund (VCF)
  • WTC Health Program (WTCHP)
  • Wrongful Death VCF Claims

9/11 Caused Digestive System Cancer Including in the Esophagus, Colon, Rectum

Every New Yorker remembers the massive dust cloud that spread from the site of the World Trade Center when the buildings fell on 9/11. That dust, along with the fumes from the months of fires at the WTC site, covered all of lower Manhattan until at least the end of May 2002. Breathing this toxic dust over the days and many months has since damaged the health of the first responders who went to the site for the rescue and recovery operations along with the New Yorker’s who went back downtown to their jobs, homes, and school.

In addition to over 70 types of cancer suffered by those downtown on or after 9/11, the chemicals in the dust cloud may also have caused severe digestive system illnesses. These digestive illnesses often occurred shortly after the exposure to the dust, but may have appeared years after the initial exposure. In many cases, these illnesses lead to severe complications and require extensive lifelong treatments. In some cases, the conditions associated with dust cloud exposure can lead to death.

Malignant Neoplasm of the Esophagus

Esophageal cancer has the sixth-highest level of cancer deaths across the United States. In esophageal cancer’s initial stages, victims may experience weight loss or difficulty swallowing. Heartburn and indigestion may increase markedly. This cancer can also cause chest pain, including a burning ache in the chest that doesn’t seem to resolve over time. Victims may also note coughing or hoarseness. Over time, malignant neoplasm of the esophagus can grow, creating an obstruction that makes it difficult for food and drink to pass through to the rest of your digestive system. Many people also notice increasing pain as cancer symptoms progress.

Malignant Neoplasm of the Stomach

Stomach cancer often starts with significant eating-related challenges. Patients may, for example, feel full even though they have not had a considerable amount to eat, or they may notice an extreme feeling of bloating after eating, including symptoms that seem to emerge regardless of what type of food they eat. Patients may also suffer from increased levels of heartburn and indigestion. Stomach cancer can also cause nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain. Patients often notice unintentional weight loss. As it progresses, these symptoms may worsen, causing increased difficulty eating and drinking.

Malignant Neoplasm of the Colon

Colon cancer often shows few to no signs in its early stages. As it progresses, patients may notice a marked change in bowel habits: increased diarrhea, for example, or a notable change in the color, texture, or frequency of stool. Patients may find that blood in the stool offers the first real sign of something wrong. The stool may also appear black, a sign of older blood.

Patients with colon cancer may notice ongoing abdominal discomfort, including cramps and pain in the abdomen, that do not resolve regardless of changes in diet. Patients may also not feel as though the bowel empties completely or constantly feel full, even when they have not eaten. Some patients note weakness, fatigue, and/or unexplained weight loss as cancer progresses.

Malignant Neoplasm of the Rectosigmoid Junction

The rectosigmoid junction, which is located between the colon and the rectum, can develop tumors or other cancerous symptoms. Patients with this type of cancer may experience symptoms similar to those suffered by patients with either colon or rectal cancer. In some cases, doctors may choose to remove this stretch of the colon to treat symptoms of cancer.

Malignant Neoplasm of the Rectum

Rectal cancer begins in the rectum, or the last several inches of the large intestine. It often begins with changes in the stool: more frequent bowel movements, increased diarrhea, or constipation. Patients may also notice either dark maroon or red blood in the stool: since the rectum comes so close to the end of the digestive tract, it usually does not turn black before passing out of the body. Like colon cancer, it can cause a feeling that the bowel does not empty, even after going to the bathroom, or feelings of weakness and fatigue. Patients may also have sudden, unexplained weight loss, especially as cancer drags on.

Malignant Neoplasm of the Liver and Bile Ducts

Liver cancer, which occurs in the upper abdominal region, can cause pain or swelling in this area. Patients may appear bloated or feel pain and sensitivity in that area. Patients with liver cancer often suffer a significant loss of appetite and may also experience nausea or vomiting. They may also lose weight abruptly or without any obvious reason. Liver cancer can also cause white, chalky stools. As it advances, it can cause a yellow discoloration of the skin or the whites of the eyes. The bile ducts, which lead from the liver to the stomach, can also experience cancerous growths.

Like liver cancer, malignant neoplasm of the bile ducts can cause changes in the color of stools and jaundice, or yellowing of the skin and eyes. Patients with liver or bile duct cancer may also notice itchy skin, much like an allergic reaction.

Malignant Neoplasm of the Retroperitoneum and Peritoneum

Neoplasm of the retroperitoneum and peritoneum develops in the connective tissue in the abdomen, the lining around the abdominal organs. These types of cancers can cause similar symptoms to other digestive system cancers, including weight loss and difficulty eating. Patients may note that they feel full earlier than anticipated when eating or that they struggle with a loss of appetite. Patients may also struggle from pain or bloating in the abdomen.

In some cases, patients may see a clear growth in their girth or notice an obvious lump caused by a tumor. In some cases, patients may also experience pain in the abdomen or lower back.

What The Treatments for Digestive System Illnesses Related to 9/11?

If you suffered a cancer diagnosis in your digestive system related to 9/11 dust exposure in any part of lower Manhattan in 2001 or 2002, you are likely eligible for free treatment through the WTC Health program, which can help ensure that you’re receiving the highest-quality treatment from experienced doctors with strong familiarity with these specific disorders, including the cancer specialists at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, an in-network provider for the WTCHP. The WTC Health Program does not charge copays, deductibles, or any other payments for treatments issued by its team, allowing volunteers and residents of New York after the 9/11 terrorist attacks to receive the high quality of care they need without having to worry about the substantial medical expenses that often accompany cancer treatments and other severe diagnoses.

Many treatments exist that can aid in the treatment of digestive system cancers. Talk to your doctor to develop a full treatment plan that will give you the best chance of beating your cancer and managing your systems for as long as possible.


Chemotherapy delivers high-dose chemicals to the body that impact its fastest-growing cells. Because malignant cancer cells grow very quickly, many patients find that chemotherapy can help kill those cells. Patients may have different reactions to chemotherapy, depending on the type and severity of their illnesses and how much treatment they need to achieve maximum effectiveness.

Chemotherapy can cause:

  • Fatigue
  • Easier bruising
  • Freer bleeding or easier bleeding
  • Hair loss
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weakness

Many patients note that their symptoms, especially those like fatigue and weakness, increase as treatment goes on. The more intense the treatments, the greater the likelihood that a patient will experience severe symptoms.

Most of the time, patients have chemotherapy delivered to the entire body, particularly if they have malignant cancer or if cancer has spread. In some cases, including liver cancer, however, patients may have chemotherapy delivered directly to the impacted organ.


Radiation therapy involves high doses of radiation delivered directly to tumors or cancerous areas of the body. Doctors carefully measure the area impacted by the tumor, and radiation targets those tumors specifically.

Radiation also brings with it a host of side effects:

  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss around the impacted area
  • Weakness
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Lack of appetite or other appetite changes
  • Coughing
  • Diarrhea

The full effects of radiation may depend on how many treatments the patient needs and what part of the body the radiation is delivered to. Patients may experience a range of different symptoms, depending on personal tolerance.


Depending on the advancement of abdominal or digestive system cancer, surgery can help remove the cancerous tissues and improve your quality of life. If cancer has not spread throughout the body, patients can often have all cancerous tissue removed, which can increase the odds that the patient will remain cancer-free long term. Surgical treatments, however, often come with significant complications.

In removing the impacted area of the digestive system, surgeons may remove so much of the digestive system that patients can no longer eat by mouth or defecate normally. Surgeons usually try to reconnect the noncancerous portions of the colon, rectum, or other areas of the digestive system after needing to remove a portion due to cancer treatments.

In some cases, however, surgeons may not have enough healthy tissue to work with, and the patient may require something different. Sometimes, that may mean installing an ostomy, a hole that leads from the digestive system through the skin, outside the body. After an ostomy, stool passes into a bag outside the body, rather than passing normally through the digestive system. Surgical treatment for digestive system disorders may also make it more difficult for patients to eat certain foods or engage in certain activities.

What Should You Do After a 9/11 Related Digestive System Illness Diagnosis?

If you face a diagnosis for a digestive system illness after 9/11, start by discussing your treatment options with your doctor. Your doctor will recommend the best treatment protocol for your specific cancer. How far the cancer has spread, what symptoms you have, and how you want to manage those symptoms will all affect the treatment you receive. Work closely with your doctor to learn more about your medical options and decide on the best choice for your care.

Contact a 9/11 Attorney

911 Cancer Claim LawyerIn 2011, the government finally acknowledged the contributions and sacrifices of volunteers at Ground Zero and those who lived and worked in Lower Manhattan by creating the Victim Compensation Fund and the WTC Health Program. These two programs remain government-funded and may draw funding from other sources so they can provide compensation as needed for those who require treatment or compensation.

Contact a 9/11 attorney to learn more about your right to compensation or how you can receive treatment through the WTC Health Program for your digestive system illness or other cancer or condition caused by 9/11 exposure.

A 9/11 attorney can help you:

  • Fill out the paperwork to ensure that it gets done correctly the first time. Filling out paperwork incorrectly may cause delays, which can prevent you from getting the treatment you need. An attorney can help ensure that you have all of the paperwork you need to fill out your claim and that you do it properly the first time.
  • Help you find the proof you need of your contributions at Ground Zero. You may need to offer specific proof, including multiple sworn affidavits in the correct form, that shows that you contributed at Ground Zero or that you lived or worked in Lower Manhattan while the dust cloud caused impact to people in the area on 9/11 of the many months after.
  • Help you maximize your compensation. Working with an experienced 9/11 attorney can help you maximize the compensation that you ultimately receive for a digestive system illness diagnosis related to your contributions after 9/11. These programs exist to help you get you the aid that you need. An attorney can help you decrease the odds that you miss out on available compensation and increase the odds that you receive the maximum award.

Did You Face a Digestive System Illness Diagnosis After Exposure at Ground Zero?

If you volunteered or worked at Ground Zero, or if you lived in Lower Manhattan during the months immediately following the 9/11 attacks, and you have received a digestive system illness diagnosis related to that exposure, you should speak with an experienced 9/11 attorney who can help you navigate the VCF and get approved through the WTC Health Program. Contact an experienced 9/11 attorney who will help you seek compensation and benefits.