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

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month – What to Know about the Link to the 9/11 Dust

For survivors of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Breast Cancer Awareness Month serves as a reminder of the increased risk of breast cancer for those who lived worked, or went to school in the surrounding areas during the 9/11 attacks, or in the many months after the attacks. It is important that those who were exposed to the toxic cloud of dust and debris in the aftermath of the attacks are aware of the risks associated with exposure, as well as the various rights, benefits, and compensation available to them.

Why Breast Cancer Awareness Month?

Each year, communities, medical professionals, and families join forces to raise awareness, promote early detection, and fundraise for research to combat breast cancer. For those who were present during the traumatic events of September 11, 2001, and its aftermath, awareness of the link between the terror attacks and the risk of developing breast cancer adds an additional layer of significance to this month's message.

9/11 and Breast Cancer

When the World Trade Center (WTC) was attacked, an enormous cloud of dust and debris was released that blanketed most of lower Manhattan. That cloud lingered in the surrounding area for close to a year after the attacks. The toxic substances in the dust included cement, steel, drywall, window glass, and other building materials all pulverized into dust, as well as thousands of incinerated computers and electrical cables. 

The dust contained a lethal mix of asbestos, lead, glass fibers, heavy metals, and other carcinogens, all identified as proven health hazards and linked to 70-plus different cancers, including breast cancer which is one of the most common 9/11-related cancers.

How Common is Breast Cancer in 9/11 Victims?

The WTC Health Program studies have shown that both responders and survivors of the September 11 attacks have an increased risk of developing breast cancer. This includes not only the traditional female demographic but also a large number of cases of male breast cancer, particularly among 9/11 responders. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Breast cancer is among the top five most diagnosed cancers affecting 9/11 responders and survivors, and female breast cancer has been diagnosed in 2,871 women responders and survivors.

Research is ongoing, but it is known that being a 9/11 first responder or area survivor (a downtown NYC worker, resident, or student) creates an elevated risk of developing breast cancer. The 9/11 WTC Health Program Disaster Area includes a 1.5-mile radius from the WTC and includes all of lower Manhattan south Houston Street, the adjacent waterways, Brooklyn Heights, and Dumbo. The cancer-causing dust persisted over this area for almost a full year, from 9/11 through July 31, 2022.  It is estimated that 500,000 people were exposed to the toxic cancer-linked dust over this time. 

Symptoms of Breast Cancer in 9/11 Survivors

Awareness of common symptoms of breast cancer is crucial for 9/11 survivors. Early detection can significantly impact the effectiveness of treatment and prognosis. For those with potential exposure to the dust and debris around the WTC, knowing what to look for is essential:

  • Lumps in the breast or lymph nodes under the arm
  • Changes in size, shape, or appearance of the breast
  • Unexplained pain in the breast or nipple
  • Any form of nipple discharge

It's important to note that these symptoms can be attributed to other health conditions as well. Given the added risk due to exposure from 9/11 events, it's paramount for both responders and survivors to regularly consult with their healthcare provider for screenings and checks.

Breast Cancer Treatment Options

Once diagnosed, various treatment options are available depending on the stage and type of breast cancer:

  1. Surgery: This might involve removing the tumor or, in more severe cases, mastectomy, where a part or the entire breast is removed.
  2. Radiation Therapy: High-dose radiation is used to kill cancer cells.
  3. Chemotherapy: Medications, either orally or intravenously, are administered to kill cancer cells.
  4. Hormone Therapy: For breast cancers that are sensitive to hormones, this therapy can slow or stop the spread of tumors.
  5. Targeted Therapy Drugs: These drugs specifically target breast cancer cells.

The specific course of treatment is chosen in discussion with medical professionals based on the patient’s particular circumstances and needs.

Know Your Options as a Victim of 9/11 With Breast Cancer

For those diagnosed with breast cancer after 9/11, options are available, including lifetime healthcare plus a tax-free payment. The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act (the Zadroga Act) reopened the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) to provide compensation for any economic loss and pain and suffering due to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The Zadroga Act also created the World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP) to provide medical monitoring and treatment for those suffering from certified 9/11 physical and mental health conditions, including 9/11 cancers such as breast cancer. 

Being informed, proactive in health checks, and aware of available resources is paramount for those affected by the events of September 11, 2001. If you or someone you know was present in lower Manhattan during the attacks, or during months following the attacks, and have since developed breast cancer, you may be entitled to a 9/11 breast cancer compensation claim and medical monitoring and treatment for your condition. Consult with the dedicated 9/11 attorneys at Hansen & Rosasco to ensure you are aware of all the options available to you as a victim of 9/11 breast cancer. We are here to support you every step of the way.