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

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month - Here's What You Need to Know as a 9/11 Victim

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month reminding us of the importance of screening for colorectal cancer. Screening is important to detect any signs of both colon and rectal cancer, and when detected at an early stage, treatment is most likely to be successful. For anyone who lived or worked in lower Manhattan on 9/11 or through 2002, awareness of colorectal cancer is particularly essential due to the established links between the toxic exposure to dust and debris at Ground Zero and an increased risk of developing such cancers.

The Link Between Colorectal Cancer and 9/11

The aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks exposed hundreds of thousands of first responders. Also, anyone who lived, worked, or went to school in lower Manhattan was exposed to carcinogens and toxic dust, which lingered for close to a year after the collapse of the WTC. Studies and research have confirmed the link between 9/11 exposure and an elevated incidence of colorectal cancers among the post-9/11 downtown community. The World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP) acknowledges colorectal cancer as a certified 9/11-related health condition, highlighting the critical need for colon cancer screening within the 9/11 community.

Colon Cancer is a Top 10 Certified Cancer By the WTCHP

Among the many health conditions covered by the WTC Health Program, cancer is the second most common to have been diagnosed in the 9/11 population. Seventy-plus different forms of cancer have been linked to 9/11 exposure, and 9/11-related colon cancer stands out as one of the top 10 certified cancers by the WTCHP. Nearly 1,200 cases have been certified as of the end of 2023, representing both responders and survivors of the attacks. 

Symptoms of 9/11 Colon and Rectal Cancer

Symptoms of colorectal cancer can vary but often include changes in bowel habits, such as diarrhea or constipation; rectal bleeding or blood in the stool; abdominal discomfort including cramps, gas, or pain; the feeling that the bowel does not empty all the way during a bowel movement; weakness or fatigue; and unexplained weight loss. These symptoms can easily be mistaken for less serious conditions, making it all the more crucial for 9/11 responders and survivors to be aware of the risks of colorectal cancer and perform regular screenings.

Treatment Options for Colon and Rectal Cancer

Treatment for colon and rectal cancer has advanced significantly in recent years. Available options are diverse, and the choice of treatment depends on the patient’s unique circumstances, taking into account the cancer's stage and location and the patient's overall health and preferences.

Surgical interventions are a common choice in the treatment of colorectal cancer, with procedures ranging from minimally invasive techniques, such as laparoscopic surgery, to more extensive operations like a colectomy, where part or all of the colon is removed. The surgical approach is determined by the size, location, and spread of the tumor, and aims to remove cancerous tissues while preserving as much normal function as possible.

Chemotherapy uses powerful medicines to kill fast-growing cancer cells and is also a common treatment option. It may be used to shrink tumors before surgery and eliminate any remaining cancer cells after surgery. The protocol varies, involving one or more chemotherapy drugs, depending on the patient’s individual circumstances.

Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays to destroy cancer cells. It is often used in conjunction with chemotherapy to increase the effectiveness of the radiation and is particularly beneficial for rectal cancer. Like chemotherapy, it can reduce tumor size, making surgical removal more feasible, and can be used to destroy any remaining cells after surgery. Especially when used before surgery in conjunction with chemotherapy, it is instrumental in preventing the recurrence of colorectal cancer.

The advent of targeted therapies has introduced a more focused approach to cancer treatment. These therapies use drugs to target the cancer’s specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment that contributes to cancer growth and survival. This targeted attack on the cancer helps to protect healthy tissues from damage. This precision not only enhances the efficacy of the treatment but also reduces the potential for side effects.

Immunotherapy, a relatively new development in cancer treatment, uses the body’s natural defenses to fight the cancer. It uses substances made by the body or in a laboratory to strengthen the immune system and help the body find and destroy cancer cells. There are multiple types of immunotherapies, with immune checkpoint inhibitors being the most important for treating colorectal cancer. 

What Are Your Options as a Victim of 9/11 Colorectal Cancer?

For anyone who lived, worked, or went to school in lower Manhattan on or after 9/11 and has since been diagnosed with colorectal cancer, there are two primary options for support and compensation. First, the WTCHP can provide access to no-cost medical monitoring and treatment tailored to 9/11-related health conditions, including colorectal cancer. 

Second, filing a claim with the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) can offer financial compensation to those who have suffered from certified 9/11-related health conditions. This compensation may cover economic losses such as medical expenses, lost earnings, lost health benefits, and lost retirement benefits, as well as non-economic losses such as physical pain and suffering, past and future. Navigating the various applications and deadlines associated with these programs can be complex, making it invaluable to seek guidance from an experienced law firm familiar with the intricacies of these programs.

Reach Out to Hansen & Rosasco

If you or a loved one is a 9/11 responder or lived, worked, or went to school in lower Manhattan on 9/11 or any time until mid-2002 and have since been diagnosed with colorectal cancer (even if you have been cured), you don't have to face this journey alone. The attorneys at Hansen & Rosasco, LLP are dedicated to representing 9/11 victims and their families, offering personalized guidance throughout the process. We understand the unique challenges faced by 9/11 victims and are committed to securing the care and compensation you deserve. Contact us today to learn more about how we can support you during Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and beyond.