9/11-Related Eye and Orbit Cancer

By Troy Rosasco

9/11-Related Eye and Orbit CancerWhile almost 3,000 lives were lost on the day of the 9/11 attacks, that devastating number has, sadly, increased over the past 20-years, including with thousands of cases of 9/11-caused cancer. The first responders and the downtown residents and area workers were all exposed to the same toxic mess that hung in the air for the year after the attacks.

The tragic effects of breathing that toxic air have led to a cancer cluster for all of those exposed to the dust (anytime from 9/11 until the end of July 2002), including eye and orbital cancer. The post-9/11 dust and fumes have been definitively linked to over 70 different types of cancers, with many known cases of eye cancer.

If you were present at Ground Zero or one of the other September 11th terrorist attack sites on the day of the attacks or at any time during the many months that followed and were since diagnosed with eye cancer, you can apply for healthcare and monitoring and can file a claim for compensation through two federally funded programs focused on assisting the first responders and survivors of 9/11.

Read on for more information about eye/orbital cancer and how an attorney can help you obtain the benefits and a cash award that you may be entitled to receive for your 9/11-related medical condition.

What Is Eye Cancer?

Eye and orbital cancer refers to abnormal cells growing in or around the eyes.

Tumors in this part of the body are rare, but can appear on any of the eye’s three parts:

  • The eyeball, also known as the globe, which is mostly filled with a jelly-like material. Tumors can appear on any of the three layers of the eyeball—the sclera, the uvea, and the retina.
  • The orbit, which is the tissue that surrounds the eyeball within the bony socket of the skull where the eye is located.
  • The adnexa, which is the accessory structures of the eye, including the eyelids and tear glands.

Types of Eye Cancer

Cancers that affect the eyeball itself are called intraocular cancers. Primary intraocular cancers originate in the eye, while secondary intraocular cancers originate in another part of the body and spread to the eye. The most common type of primary intraocular cancer suffered by adults is melanoma—which is commonly thought of as cancer that affects only the skin. Melanoma of the eye begins within pigment-making cells known as melanocytes. The most common area of the eye where melanoma appears is in the uvea, in the middle layer of the eyeball.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is the second-most common type of primary intraocular cancer to be acquired by adults. The most common secondary intraocular cancers to spread to the eye include breast cancer and lung cancer.

Cancers of the orbit or adnexa generally develop from tissues such as nerves, muscles, or skin around the eyeball. Cancers of the eyelid are usually skin cancers, such as basal and squamous cell carcinomas. Cancers developing in the eye muscles are often Rhabdomyosarcoma, a type of cancer that originates in skeletal (voluntary) muscles.

Symptoms of Eye Cancer

Many eye or orbit cancer symptoms are not present until the later stages of the disease, and symptoms can vary according to the type of eye or orbit cancer one is suffering from.

In general, however, signs of eye cancer include:

  • Blurry vision, sudden loss of vision, or other visual disturbances.
  • Squiggles or spots in the vision, known as floaters, or sudden flashes of light.
  • A portion of your field of vision was lost.
  • A dark spot is visible on the colored part of the eye.
  • A change in the position of the eyeball within the socket. Many orbital tumors will cause a condition known as proptosis, a painless bulging of the eye as the tumor enlarges and pushes it away from the socket.
  • A change in the way the eye moves within the socket.
  • Changes to the size or shape of the pupil.

How to Treat Eye Cancer

The treatments used to treat your cancer depend on your overall health and ability to handle aggressive treatments, as well as how aggressive the cancer is and whether it has spread to other body parts.

Some of the procedures commonly used to treat eye cancer include:

  • Active surveillance/observation: Many eye cancers grow slowly. Your doctor may opt to simply monitor your condition and only resort to treatment if the tumor grows or you begin to suffer negative impacts from the condition.
  • Removal of the eye. While simply watching the condition is a slow-paced way to address treatment, removing the entire eye is the opposite. Some types of cancer have such a high likelihood of spreading quickly or pose such a hazard that removing the eye is the only resort.
  • Other surgical treatments: Surgery commonly addresses eye cancer, but does not always involve removing the entire eye. If possible, your doctor will consider only removing the diseased tissue of the eye. Radiation therapy may follow this procedure.
  • Radiation therapy: This treatment uses a high-energy X-ray or other particles to kill the cancer cells.
  • Laser therapy: This treatment uses heat in the form of a laser beam to shrink smaller tumors.
  • Chemotherapy: This treatment relies on the use of high-powered drugs to kill the cancer cells.

Receiving Treatment for Your Eye Cancer Through the WTC Health Program

Those who were exposed to the toxins at the September 11th attack sites (which includes all lower Manhattan) who have now been diagnosed with eye cancer can obtain free treatment for their condition at networked health care facilities across the nation through the WTC Health Program. In 2019, Congress fully funded the WTC Health Program (and extended the Program to the year 2090) by the Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act.

To obtain services through the program, you should:

  • Ensure that you are eligible for the program. In addition to contracting an eligible medical condition, you must have been at one of the impacted sites, either as a first responder at Ground Zero, the Pentagon, or in Shanksville; as a rescue, recovery, or cleanup worker in lower Manhattan between September 11, 2001, to May 30, 2002; OR that you lived, worked, or attended school in the lower Manhattan area (the entire lower Manhattan South of Houston Street and Brooklyn Heights) during that time frame.
  • Make sure you have the appropriate documentation, including multiple detailed affidavits, to prove your presence in an impacted area as well as medical documentation of your diagnosis.
  • Complete the application and submit it along with the rest of the required documentation to the WTC Health Program either online or by mail or fax.

In addition to treating your 9/11-related medical condition, the WTC Health Program can also provide prescription services, diagnostic testing, and other medical services as necessary.

Obtaining Compensation for Your 9/11-Related Eye and Orbit Cancer

Eye cancer and other 9/11-related medical conditions tend to be quite serious and life-altering, resulting in expenses, physical pain and suffering, and even premature death. If you were exposed to 9/11 toxins and you have in the past or are now fighting eye cancer or you lost a loved one to eye cancer after 9/11 exposure, you can pursue damages related to your illness through a claim with the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, commonly referred to as the VCF.

Like the WTC Health Program, the VCF was authorized and funded through the Zadroga Act to provide compensation for pain and suffering plus any wage loss and non-economic damages to survivors of the September 11th terrorist attacks. In 2019, then-President Donald Trump reauthorized and fined the program through October 1, 2090.

To file a claim with the VCF:

  • Get your cancer or other medical condition certified with the WTC Health Program, which will allow the administrators of the VCF funds to access your medical records through the WTC Health Program when considering your claim. You should also have your condition certified as eligible for treatment by the WTC Health Program even if you do not receive your medical care through the Health Program. Eligibility for the WTC Health Program is not registration or filing with the VCF and does not automatically guarantee VCF compensation.
  • Create an account and register with the VCF by your registration deadline. The registration deadline is different depending on your circumstances. If your medical condition was certified by the WTC Health Program before July 29, 2019, you must register with the VCF by July 29, 2021, to reserve your right to file a claim at any time before October 1, 2090. Those who had their medical condition certified after July 29, 2019, have two years from the last date on which they had a medical condition certified to register with the VCF. Those whose loved ones have died as the result of a 9/11-related condition before July 29, 2019, must register with the VCF to reserve their right to file their wrongful death claim with the VCF by July 29, 2021. Those whose loved ones passed away from an eligible condition after that date have two years from the date of death to register. Registering with the VCF does not obligate you to file a claim.
  • File your claim for compensation by October 1, 2090.

Claims are generally reviewed on a first-in, first-out basis, though expedited consideration is available in some exigent or urgent cases. The first part of the process your claim will undergo is a preliminary review to ensure that you have included all required documentation. If you are missing some information, the VCF will mail you a notice of missing information and place your claim in inactive status until all of the information is received.

If you have not submitted the information within 60 days after receiving the notice, your claim will be denied.

After the preliminary review, your claim will be subject to a more substantive review process to ensure eligibility. Once this review has been completed, program administrators will inform you of their decision on your claim. You have thirty days after the program has notified you of their decision to file an appeal. If you do not file an appeal, your payment will be processed as soon as the required appeal period has passed, usually between two and three months after a decision.

How a Lawyer Can Help

The benefits provided by the WTC Health Program and the VCF are vital to the ability of 911 survivors to address the expenses and loss of quality of life incurred by serious health conditions such as eye and/or orbit cancer resulting from toxic exposure from the September 11, 2001, atrocities. As difficult as the years since the terrorist attacks occurred have been for these survivors, many are often then subjected to the difficult job that requires them to find documentation from nearly two decades ago. Without this proof, a claim will typically be denied.

Hansen & Rosasco - 9/11 lawyersThe 9/11 assistance lawyers at Hansen & Rosasco LLP have been helping 9/11 first responders and survivors (the then downtown Manhattan residents, workers, and students) to access the benefits they are entitled to receive since the early years of these programs, originally in 2001 and then again since 2011 when the programs were reopened by the Zadroga Act. Since that time, we have helped our clients to obtain awards and be paid hundreds of millions of dollars worth of compensation and medical benefits. Our attorneys and devoted support professionals have a deep knowledge of the WTC Health Program and VCF process and can help those who are first preparing and filing a claim, those who were denied compensation, or to help amend an initial claim and resubmit it for additional compensation.

Posted under: 9/11 Cancers
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