9/11-Related Eye and Orbit Cancer

9/11-Related Eye and Orbit Cancer

By Troy Rosasco

9/11-Related Eye and Orbit Cancer

Two decades after the collapse of the World Trade Center spread a toxic dust plume of pulverized concrete, jet fuel, burning plastics, asbestos, heavy metals, and many other toxic and carcinogenic substances, over 100,000 people  have developed severe health problems linked to 9/11 toxic dust. Many of them – the first responders and downton workers, residents, students, and others – tragically suffer from 9/11  related eye and orbit cancer.

While 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.

About 9/11-Related Eye and Orbit Cancer

The human eye has three parts where cancer can develop:

  • The eyeball.
  • The eye socket, also known as the orbit, which is the bony structure that houses the eyeball.
  • The adnexa, which are the supporting structures for the eye, such as the eyelid and tear glands.

Cancers of all three parts have been linked to 9/11. Eye cancers can be life-threatening. As eye and orbit tumors grow, they can also affect vision.


How Could 9/11 Toxic Dust Exposure Cause Eye and Orbit Cancers?

As reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one month after the terror attacks, around 50 percent of the individuals living near the World Trade Center site reported eye irritation or infection. The eyes are among the most sensitive organs in the body. They are prone to irritation from air pollutants in concentrations far lower than those in Lower Manhattan after 9/11. Many of the pollutants in the dust plume were carcinogenic, which contributes to cancer development.

Some eye cancers originate in the eye. Direct exposure to environmental toxins like 9/11 toxic dust and debris can cause these cancers. So can exposure to radiation or UV rays, which occurred during the long days that many responders spent working on the recovery and cleanup operations.

Other cancers spread to the eye and orbit from other body parts. Common types of cancer known to spread to the eye and orbit include breast, lung, skin, and prostate cancer, all of which have been linked to 9/11 toxic exposures.

How Is Eye Cancer Treated?

Various treatments exist for eye and orbit cancer. Selecting the appropriate one often depends on factors like the size and location of the cancer and whether physicians believe it’s possible to save the patient’s vision in the affected eye.

Treatments for eye and orbit cancer can include:

  • Surgery to remove the entire eye or the tumor from the eye.
  • Radiation therapy, which aims high-powered energy beams at the affected area to kill the cancer cells.
  • Laser therapy, which is commonly used if surgery or radiation are not possible.

As with most cancers, tumors in the eye and orbit can recur after treatment. Eye and orbit cancers can also spread (metastasize) to other body parts.

If this happened to you, you deserve compensation. A 9/11 benefits lawyer can secure the compensation you deserve.

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.

The Impacts of Eye and Orbit Cancers on the 9/11 Community

Like all cancers, eye and orbit cancers cause extreme physical, emotional, and financial hardship for afflicted individuals, their loved ones, and their communities. Eye and orbit cancers can rob you of your sight. They can spread aggressively (or be the result of aggressive cancer elsewhere in your body) and threaten your life. They can provoke anxiety and depression, strain your relationships, deprive you of precious time with your family and friends, and keep you out of work.

Treatments for eye and orbit cancers frequently cause weakness, nausea, and compromised immunity to other illnesses—symptoms so debilitating that they sometimes feel as bad as cancer itself. Medical bills for those treatments can pile up, causing financial distress and threatening bankruptcy.

No one deserves to suffer this way, especially not people who responded at Ground Zero or trusted government assurances that it was safe to return to live, work, or attend school in Lower Manhattan.

What Should You Do If You Have (or Might Have) a 9/11-Related Cancer of the Eye or Orbit?

Cancer rarely emerges immediately after exposure to a carcinogen. It takes time —often years or even decades—to develop after the toxic exposure that caused it. This delay is known as a latency period, and it explains why so many 9/11 responders and survivors continue to be diagnosed with eye and orbit cancers more than twenty years after the 9/11 terror attacks.

If you were exposed to toxic dust and debris in Lower Manhattan on 9/11 or in the months that followed, and you now suffer from an eye or orbit cancer (or eye problems generally), you may have the right to receive free medical care and financial compensation from the federal government. Here are some steps you can take to protect those rights.

Speak With a Knowledgeable Attorney About Your Options

The federal government operates two programs to assist individuals who suffer from health conditions caused by exposure to 9/11 toxic dust and debris: The World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP) and the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF). A 2011 law, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. The WTCHP provides free medical monitoring and treatment for 9/11-related illnesses and health problems. The VCF pays compensation to individuals who suffer from those conditions and to families of people who died from them.

Anyone who sustained exposure to toxic dust and debris in Lower Manhattan or another 9/11 site and now suffers health problems potentially related to that exposure may have the right to receive benefits from these programs. Determining your eligibility for benefits, however, isn’t always easy or straightforward.

The most reliable and efficient way to figure out what benefits you might request from the WTCHP or VCF is to speak with an experienced 9/11 benefits attorney. If you are eligible for benefits, an attorney can also handle the process of applying for them and of making sure you receive the full services and benefits you deserve.

An initial consultation with a skilled 9/11 benefits lawyer is always free of charge, confidential, and carries no obligation to move forward.

Apply for Medical Monitoring and Treatment Through the WTCHP

The WTCHP provides, at no cost to the patient, all necessary medical treatment for health conditions linked to 9/11 toxic dust and debris exposure. The services the program offers for free include doctor visits, surgery, prescription medications, screening for known conditions, and monitoring of conditions that slowly progress and do not necessarily need treatment at the time of diagnosis.

The WTCHP provides its services at several medical facilities, known as Clinical Centers of Excellence, located in the New York City area and at affiliated medical facilities nationwide.

Anyone exposed to 9/11 toxic substances in Lower Manhattan or another attack or cleanup site may have the right to receive WTCHP services.

This includes:

  • Responders and volunteers who did rescue, recovery, or cleanup work at one of the terror attack sites or disposal routes e between September 11, 2001, and July 31, 2002.
  • Individuals who lived, worked, or attended school or daycare in the Lower Manhattan exposure zone between September 11, 2001, and July 31, 2002.

You can submit an application to participate in the WTCHP online, by mail, or by fax. The application requires you to submit documentation proving that you suffered exposure to 9/11 toxic materials in Lower Manhattan or another attack or cleanup site. You do not have to prove that you suffer from a covered 9/11-related health condition to apply for membership in the WTCHP.

Program administrators will review your application and notify you of whether your application has been approved or denied. If they approve your application, you can immediately schedule an initial health evaluation to determine if you suffer from a covered 9/11-related health condition that qualifies you for free monitoring or treatment. If they deny your application, you may still have the ability to become a Program member by supplying additional documentation or successfully appealing the denial decision.

An experienced 9/11 benefits attorney can assist you in gathering the documentation for a WTCHP application, preparing and submitting that application, interacting with WTCHP representatives, and (if necessary) appealing any adverse decision.

Register to File a VCF Claim to Receive Compensation

The VCF initially ran from 2001 to 2004 and paid compensation to families of deceased 9/11 victims and to individuals who suffered acute physical injuries in the attacks or clean-up efforts. The Zadroga Act expanded eligibility to people who suffer from 9/11-related health conditions. In 2019, the Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund guaranteed funding for all VCF claims submitted until October 1, 2090.

Because the VCF needs to plan ahead, it requires you to register with the VCF before you file a claim for compensation. Registration is not the same as filing a claim. It serves only to alert the VCF that you exist and that you may file a claim seeking money from the VCF in the future.

You can register with the VCF at any time. Registering does not obligate you to file a future claim and does not waive any of your legal rights. You do not need to be sick or have a diagnosed 9/11-related health condition to register. The VCF strongly encourages anyone who may have been exposed to 9/11 toxic dust and debris to register immediately, regardless of their current health status.

That said, if you suffer from a 9/11-related health condition like eye or orbit cancer, you must register with the VCF within two years of receiving:

  • A certification of your 9/11-related illness from the WTCHP.

Similarly, if your loved one died from a 9/11-related illness, to receive death benefits from the VCF, you must register within two years of your loved one’s death if the deceased was in the WTC Health Program and the condition that caused their death had been “certified” by the Health Program. If the deceased was not in the Health Program and the cause of death condition was not “certified,” then the family has until 2090 to register and file a claim with the VCF.

An experienced 9/11 benefits attorney can answer your questions about registering with the VCF.

File a VCF Claim

Once you have registered with the VCF, you may file a claim for financial compensation at any time until October 1, 2090.

If the VCF approves your claim, you may receive payment for:

  • Out-of-pocket medical and other expenses involved in treating or living with your illness.
  • Lost wages due to your illness, keeping you out of work.
  • Your pain and suffering.

The VCF will pay pain and suffering compensation of up to $250,000 to individuals diagnosed with eye or orbit cancer linked to a 9/11 toxic exposure and up to $90,000 for pain and suffering resulting from non-cancer conditions.

Many VCF claimants have been diagnosed with more than one 9/11-related health condition. If you already received compensation from the VCF for another condition, you may add a newly diagnosed condition to your claim and potentially receive additional compensation by amending your original claim.

An experienced 9/11 benefits attorney can handle all aspects of the process of claiming compensation from the VCF, from gathering evidence to submitting your claim to following up with the VCF to ensure that you receive the maximum payment allowable. An attorney can also advise you about your potential eligibility for other programs that may offer you additional financial assistance with your eye or obit cancer, such as Social Security Disability (SSD).

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.

Contact a 9/11 Benefits Attorney Today

Have you been diagnosed with 9/11-related eye or orbit cancer? If so, you may have the right to free medical care and significant financial compensation from the federal government. To learn more, contact a knowledgeable 9/11 benefits attorney for a free consultation.

Posted under: 9/11 Cancers, 9/11 Victim Compensation



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