The September 11th Dust and Fumes Caused Head & Neck Cancers

By Troy Rosasco

How to Get an Award for Your 9/11 Cancer

september 11 Head & Neck Cancers lawyerThe September 11th attacks released dust in the air that has caused a significant increase in head and neck cancers. Exposures to the 9/11 toxins ranged from getting caught in the dust cloud on 9/11 to chronic exposures by the downtown workers, residents, students and many others that extended into the summer of 2002. Judith Graber, an associate professor at Rutgers School of Public Health, who conducted a recent study that confirmed the link between 9/11 exposure and head and neck cancers, noted that “cancers are diseases of long latency, the findings of significant excess cancer in this period point to a newly emerging trend that requires ongoing monitoring and treatment of WTC-exposed persons.”

Many of the volunteers who responded at Ground Zero after 9/11, and many people who lived and worked in Lower Manhattan following the destruction of the World Trade Centers, have faced severe cancer diagnoses in the years that followed. Due to the nature of asbestos and the other chemicals found in the dust cloud that covered Ground Zero and Lower Manhattan for months following the collapse of the Twin Towers, many of those cancers include cancers of the head and neck.

Thanks to two federal government programs, however, you may qualify for a settlement to pay for your treatments.

Types of Head and Neck Cancers

According to the WTC Health Program, head and neck cancers contracted from exposure at Ground Zero may include:

Cancers of the Accessory Sinuses

Following the events of 9/11, volunteers and residents often breathed in dust from the towers, which could lodge and settle in the sinus cavities. Sometimes, cancers that occur in the sinus cavities occur on only one side. Others may notice symptoms on both sides. Often, symptoms begin with nasal congestion and stuffiness that don’t go away. This stuffiness does not coincide with allergies or other illnesses. It can also include post-nasal drip unrelated to allergies.

Some victims may notice a loss of the sense of smell or numbness or pain in parts of the face. The risk of nosebleeds may increase considerably, and patients may have a harder time stopping the bleeding. Patients may also notice pus draining from the nose or even into the mouth.

Patients with sinus cancers may also notice pressure in the ears or wateriness or bulging of the eyes. Some patients note a headache that refuses to go away, often worsening in severity. While many of these symptoms occur in conjunction with other types of illnesses, patients who suffered exposure to the cloud at Ground Zero should make sure to receive an evaluation from their doctors if they suspect any symptoms of cancer.

Cancer at the Base of the Tongue

Several types of cancer impact the tongue, either due to the cancer itself or throughout treatment. Many cancer patients, for example, note that chemotherapy and radiation treatments cause a noticeable change in their sense of taste. Direct tongue cancer, however, begins in the cells of the tongue.

Cancers caused by exposure to the dust cloud following 9/11 usually occur at the base of the tongue, usually in the form of a tumor. In its early stages, this type of cancer often does not cause many symptoms. Unless a doctor detects a tumor during treatment for another illness, the cancer may advance substantially before the patient realizes it. Often, this occurs due to a large tumor.

Tongue cancer can have a significant impact on many areas of the victim’s life. Treatment may include radiation, chemotherapy, and targeted drug therapy, but it also typically includes direct surgery to remove the cancer. This surgery may impact the patient’s ability to speak and eat, requiring significant occupational therapy to cope with those changes. Some limitations suffered as a direct result of tongue cancer treatment may prove permanent, causing significant and long-term limitations for the patient.

Oral Cancer, or Cancer of the Mouth

Oral cancers caused by the dust cloud at Ground Zero usually begin on the floor of the mouth. Typically, symptoms include changes in the mouth: you may notice pain in the mouth, including trouble swallowing, for example. Patients may also experience unexpectedly loose teeth or notice changes to the mouth itself: sores that refuse to heal or noticeable growths or lumps. For many patients, mouth cancer can also cause pain in the ears, or pain on one side of the ears. While these symptoms can also result from infections, if you suffered exposure to the dust cloud at Ground Zero, you may want to consider a thorough evaluation from your doctor.

Cancers of the Gums

Cancers of the gums have similar symptoms to other oral cancers. Many victims notice loose teeth or swelling in the gums, including swelling that does not seem to come from an obvious source. Many patients with gum cancer otherwise have good oral health habits, but may notice swelling, redness, or red and white patches somewhere on their gums. Sometimes, patients may also notice sores in the mouth, including on the gums. Overall tooth health may deteriorate, especially near the site of the cancer.

Hypopharynx Cancer

The hypopharynx, which sits at the bottom part of the throat, passes food and air through the esophagus and trachea. In the early stages of cancer, many patients may notice few to no symptoms. As cancer progresses, however, symptoms may grow. Patients may notice a sore throat that lasts for a long time and does not seem to ease with normal care. This sore throat has no relation to an infection, but rather occurs due to the cancer. The cancer can also cause pain when swallowing or a change in the patient’s voice, often deepening or roughness. Patients may also notice an obvious lump in the neck or struggle with ear pain.

Laryngeal Cancer

Laryngeal cancer occurs in the larynx, or the voice box. For many patients, early signs can prove hard to note, especially during cold and flu season. Laryngeal cancer may often start with a persistent sore throat: one that refuses to go away despite your best efforts. It can lead to a change in the voice, including making the patient sound hoarse or the voice deepens. Often, patients still in the early stages of laryngeal cancer may write this change off to seasonal allergies or a minor infection.

Laryngeal cancer may also lead to a cough, often one that lasts long-term. Over time, it can cause pain when swallowing or make it difficult for the patient to swallow or breathe. As it progresses, breathing difficulty may increase substantially. Many patients struggle to eat or drink while undergoing treatment for laryngeal cancer. In some cases, treatment can cause permanent changes to the patient’s voice.

Lip Cancer

In its early stages, lip cancer may appear simply like a sore or lesion on the lips, either interior or exterior. These lesions may, however, fail to heal, even with time and usual treatments. Patients may notice the lesion slowly spreading, especially as they increase in severity. Untreated, lip cancer can eat away at the lip tissue, causing permanent loss of sensation or disfigurement.

Cancer of the Nasopharynx

The nasopharynx starts in the upper part of the throat, behind the nose. This area brings air into your body and helps guide it from your nose to your lungs. Most often, patients notice a lump in the neck. However, cancer of the nasopharynx can cause recurrent pain in the ears, head, or face.

Patients may also notice a stuffy nose or ongoing nosebleeds. In some cases, they can’t fully open their mouths, or they may struggle with numbness in the face. Sometimes, this cancer can cause vision changes, including blurry or double vision. In their early stages, these symptoms may remain relatively minimal, and many patients may write them off. As symptoms persist, however, many patients find them harder to ignore.

Palate Cancer

The palate forms an important barrier between the mouth and the nasal cavity. When cancer occurs in the palate, it usually starts as a tumor or mass. Most patients may first notice a minor ulcer or sore in the mouth. As it expands, it can grow increasingly painful. As it grows, it can cause pain throughout the mouth and throat. Patients may notice trouble swallowing or have trouble consuming certain types of food. Palate cancers can bleed, especially as they grow.

Tonsil Cancer

Tonsil cancer can occur in people who have not had their tonsils removed for other reasons. Often, tonsil cancer manifests as a sensation of something caught in the throat. Patients may feel as though they cannot swallow easily, or have trouble getting down large foods. As the mass on the tonsils grows, swallowing may grow increasingly difficult along with it. Many patients note increasing throat pain as the cancer progresses.

What Should You Do If You Note Symptoms of Head and Neck Cancer?

If you faced exposure to the dust cloud at Ground Zero, you know that you have a higher than average risk of contracting cancer of the head and neck. Any time you notice concerning symptoms, you should receive a full medical evaluation.

1. Note unusual or concerning symptoms.

Have you noticed an increased amount of nasal discharge? Do you suddenly struggle to swallow or notice pain in your mouth or throat? Have you recently developed a sore in your mouth that does not seem to heal within a reasonable time?

Note any unusual symptoms. You may want to start a diary that will allow you to detail how long those symptoms last. For example, has a cough lingered longer than anticipated after illness? Did you expect a sore in your mouth to heal long before it did? In the middle of experiencing those symptoms, they may seem to linger longer than anticipated. By documenting them, you can create a clear record of exactly when they occurred for the first time and how long they have lasted.

2. Get in touch with a doctor as soon as possible.

Contact your primary care physician for a quick evaluation of any concerning symptoms and to rule out any other causes, including infection, that could contribute to your symptoms. Your physician may recommend you to a specialist who can conduct further evaluation of your symptoms and determine whether you may have cancer. From there, you may choose to pursue treatment through your preferred providers, or you might choose to seek treatment through the World Trade Center Health Program. You can also continue with your own private doctors and specialists, and use the medical payment coverage provided by the WTC Health Program.

As a victim of the 9/11 attacks, even a victim whose symptoms showed up well after 9/11 itself, you have the right to seek free treatment through the WTC Health Program. The WTC Health Program offers free treatment for victims who suffer any of the conditions on the list of conditions certified as occurring due to dust cloud exposure at Ground Zero or acute injury related to the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

As you work with your doctors, create a treatment plan. Your unique health status and your specific diagnosis will impact your treatment plan, which may include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or experimental treatments designed to help improve your odds of making a full recovery. Some types of cancer, including mesothelioma, have a high fatality rate, so you should adhere to the directions given by your doctors and follow your treatment protocols as well as possible.

As you undergo treatment, your doctors will evaluate your progress and make further recommendations about treatment based on your cancer’s response to existing treatments and what side effects you suffer throughout treatment.

3. Contact an experienced 9/11 attorney.

As a victim of the 9/11 attacks, you can pursue compensation through the VCF for your financial losses and other losses suffered by cancer. An attorney can provide valuable aid to not only properly prepare a claim (including drafting the required detailed affidavits), but also assess what comes next as you file your claim.

For example, failing to fill out your claim information accurately can extend the time needed to settle your claim or even lead to claim denial. An attorney can help complete all of that tricky information correctly and ensure that you understand your legal right to compensation, including how much compensation you actually deserve for your losses after your actions at Ground Zero.

Contact an Experienced 9/11 Attorney After Your Diagnosis

Hansen & Rosasco - NYC 9/11 lawyersIf you faced a head or neck cancer diagnosis and you volunteered, worked, or lived near Ground Zero following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, you may deserve compensation through the VCF. Getting that compensation, however, is often difficult.

Hansen & Rosasco, LLP works exclusively on 9/11 claims. Contact our experienced 9/11 attorneys as soon after your diagnosis as possible to learn more about your legal rights. We can quickly, efficiently, and correctly file your 9/11 VCF claim, including handling any necessary appeals and representing you at any hearings.

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