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

Knowing Your Options for Breast Cancer Surgery

Breast cancer is the third most common cancer caused by the 9/11 dust and fumes. The World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP) reports over 2,625 cases of 9/11 caused breast cancer since that program opened in 2011. Of this total, 480 responders and 2,145 survivors – people who lived, worked, or were students in lower Manhattan between 9/11 and May 30, 2002 – were diagnosed with 9/11-related breast cancer. There are likely thousands more women (and men) who have been diagnosed with breast cancer since 2001 and do not know of the link between their presence in lower Manhattan in 2001-2002 and a diagnosed case of breast cancer, often a decade or more later. 

Two decades of medical studies show an absolute link between being exposed to the 9/11 dust and fumes (simply by working, living or attending school in lower Manhattan between 9/11 and mid-2002) and a later diagnosis of breast cancer. The post-9/11 air was toxic and that toxic air is a proven cause of breast cancer. 

9/11 Survivors and Breast Cancer

We have seen an increasing number of survivors and first responders of 9/11 who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, and we know that those exposed during or in the aftermath of 9/11 have been found to have an increased risk of developing breast cancer. This is due to the exposure to toxins and carcinogens released when the buildings collapsed and the fires that burned in the following months. 

People who were in lower Manhattan on 9/11, as well as those who worked, studied or lived in the area, are at an even greater risk for developing breast cancer. The risk of breast cancer increases the longer a survivor was exposed to the toxins. A breast cancer diagnosis, even two decades after working or living in Downtown Manhattan, has been tragically all too common. 

The federal government recognizes the link between the 9/11 fallout and breast cancer. The WTCHP provides lifetime healthcare for the 9/11 exposed population, including at some of the best hospitals in the country such as Memorial Sloan Kettering. The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund provides for an award of compensation for 9/11-related breast cancer, with awards ranging from $250,000 to as high as close to $4,000,000 in cases where there has been lost earnings and other economic losses. 

Surgery for Breast Cancer

When it comes to surgery for breast cancer, there are different types of surgeries to consider. The type of surgery a patient chooses will depend on the type of breast cancer, the size and location of the tumor, and the individual’s overall health. Many times, a decision must be made between breast-sparing surgery, mastectomy, and mastectomy with reconstructive surgery. 

Breast-Sparing Surgery

Breast-sparing surgery is a procedure in which the breast surgeon will remove the tumor, along with a small amount of healthy tissue around the tumor, but does not remove the entire breast. This type of surgery is often used if the cancer is confined to a small area and the tumor can be removed without compromising the appearance or shape of the breast.


A mastectomy is a procedure that removes the entire breast. This type of surgery is usually recommended if the cancer is large and has spread into the surrounding breast tissue. Depending on the type of breast cancer, it may be necessary to remove some or all of the lymph nodes in the area as well.

Mastectomy with Reconstructive Surgery

Mastectomy with reconstructive surgery is a procedure that removes the entire breast and then reconstructs the breast with the help of a plastic surgeon. This type of surgery is often recommended for those who have larger tumors or have had radiation treatments in the past. Reconstructive surgery can help restore the shape of the removed breast and can make a person feel more comfortable about their body.

Other Surgeries and Biopsies

In addition to the above surgeries, there are other types of surgical procedures that may be necessary for treating breast cancer. These include lumpectomies, lymph node dissection, and sentinel lymph node biopsy. A lumpectomy is a procedure that removes the tumor but leaves the surrounding tissue intact. An axillary lymph node dissection is a procedure that removes the lymph nodes in the area to check for signs of cancer. And a sentinel lymph node biopsy is a procedure that removes a few lymph nodes to check for signs of cancer.

Knowing Which Surgery is Right for You

After being diagnosed with breast cancer, it is important to make sure you understand the different types of surgeries available so you can make an informed decision about which one is right for you. Discuss all of your options with your doctor. They can help you weigh the pros and cons of each type of surgery and help you decide which one is best for you.

The Addition of Radiation Therapy 

Radiation therapy may be recommended for certain types of breast cancer. Radiation treatments are used to target and destroy cancer cells that may still remain after surgery. The type of radiation therapy used will depend on the type of breast cancer and the individual's overall health.

Preparing for Breast Cancer Surgery

If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer and are considering surgery, you will want to prepare yourself both mentally and physically for the procedure. Talk to your doctor about the type of surgery you are considering and what you can expect before, during, and after the procedure. The National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship has an excellent tool to help you create a checklist of questions to ask your doctor, which can be personalized based on the type of cancer, one’s age, and the stage of treatment. Your doctor will give you instructions on eating and drinking before your surgery and on taking your regular medications. Learning breathing exercises and leg exercises can help prevent infection and blood clotting in the aftermath of surgery. 

Your doctor will likely want to perform tests to ensure your fitness for general anesthetic. These may include blood tests to check your general health and the health of your kidneys and liver, an ECG and an echocardiogram to check that your heart is healthy, lung function tests, chest x-rays to check lung health, and a cardiopulmonary exercise test to check heart and lung function when you’re resting and exercising.

The process of diagnosis, treatment and recovery for breast cancer is unique and can take a toll on one's mental and emotional well being. Some individuals find it beneficial to talk to a counselor or therapist to help them process what they are going through. 

Consult Our 9/11 Attorneys During Your Cancer Recovery

At Hansen & Rosasco, LLP, we are dedicated to fighting for the rights of individuals who have been affected by the September 11th attacks. Having worked with hundreds of survivors and first responders, we understand the unique challenges you face in your recovery from breast cancer, and we have years of experience advocating for 9/11 survivors. If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer or another type of cancer, find out more about 9/11 breast cancer compensation claims and contact our 9/11 attorneys to learn about the legal options available to you. We will help you get the compensation and health care you deserve.