Jeremy Ohara

Jeremy Ohara

9/11 Exposure and Cancer Risk: A Treatment Guide for Victims

  May 17, 2024

The 9/11 attacks were a national tragedy, and their impact is still echoing in ways we’re still uncovering. 

Amidst the initial devastation, clouds of toxic dust and debris settled over lower Manhattan, containing a dangerous mixture of carcinogens, which led to many illnesses. 

Due to the increased number of people getting sick, a special health program was started by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help 9/11 responders and survivors. 

Unfortunately, over 5,700 people in this program have died from illnesses caused by their exposure to toxic dust. 

Thus, the aftermath of that day continues with an increased risk of developing cancer. This knowledge can be frightening, but it’s a fear we can face head-on. 

In this article, we will discuss what risk you are at and how to get help from various programs to save money.

Cancers Linked to the Tragedy

10 Cancers Among 9/11 Survivors

Sadly, the legacy of 9/11 extends beyond the immediate devastation of the attacks. 

Breathing the toxic dust and debris released that day has been definitively linked to an increased risk of developing several types of cancer. 

These include cancers related to – blood, lung, prostate, skin, brain, pancreas, kidney, and many more. 

Moreover, it’s pivotal to be aware that there’s often a significant delay between exposure and the development of this disease. It may sometimes take years or even decades to show minor symptoms.

While research continues, there’s strong evidence that the substances in the dust cloud contribute to a heightened risk of severe illness. 

The World Trade Center Health Program plays a significant role in tracking these illnesses and providing necessary care.

The World Trade Center tragedy dust composition had 50% non fibrous construction material, 40% glass and other fibers, 9.2% cellulose from disintegrated paper, and 0.8% asbestos. 

Resources and Support

9/11 Memorial, New York

A 9/11-related cancer diagnosis can feel overwhelming. Thankfully, you are not alone in this journey. 

The supportive groups and programs that can help you are:

  • Victim Compensation Fund: This fund offers financial support to those impacted by 9/11 illnesses. It can help with medical bills or other expenses.
    • Sometimes, you might face difficulties in claiming compensation. If this happens, different law firms are helping you navigate the process, especially if your diagnosis falls within the recognized 9/11 cancer list provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They can greatly help with your claims and unburden your shoulders.  
  • The World Trade Center Health Program: If you were present in the designated NYC disaster area after the attacks, this program provides free medical monitoring, treatment, and support. They understand the unique challenges of 9/11-related cancers.
    • You can visit their official website for more information regarding the eligibility requirements.
  • Support Groups: Connecting with others who understand your experience can be incredibly helpful. Look for 9/11-specific support groups both online and in your community.
  • Mental Health Care: Battling cancer alongside the emotional echoes of 9/11 can be tough. Don’t hesitate to seek therapy or counseling services if you need them.

Symptoms and Detection

7 Common Cancer Symptoms

Unfortunately, many cancerous symptoms linked to 9/11 exposure can also be signs of other, less serious health problems. 

This is why you should see your doctor regularly, especially if you were a responder, survivor, or in the area during the attacks. 

Be honest about your exposure so they can be on the lookout.

Some common symptoms of cancers include:

  • Persistent coughing
  • Unexplained fatigue
  • Skin changes
  • Unusual bleeding or lumps

Don’t ignore these! Your doctor can run tests and screenings to help figure out what’s going on and catch any potential cancerous symptoms early when it’s most treatable.

Treatment Options

The type of treatment your doctor recommends for a 9/11-related illness depends on the specific cancer and how far it has progressed. 

Here’s an overview of the treatment approaches often used:

  • Conventional Options: Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy remain vital tools in fighting cancer.
  • Targeted Therapies & Immunotherapy: Newer treatments like these offer more personalized approaches by targeting specific cancer cells or boosting the body’s immune response.
  • Clinical Trials: Some clinical trials are still underway to understand cancers better and find a cure. These may open up access to cutting-edge treatments that are still being tested.

It’s relevant to work with an Oncologist who understands the nuances of 9/11-related cancers. 

They can guide you through the options and create a treatment plan tailored to your individual needs.


Facing a cancer diagnosis linked to the events of 9/11 can understandably feel overwhelming, especially alongside the trauma of that day. However, it’s significant to remember you are not alone. 

The World Trade Center Health Program, the Victim Compensation Fund, and numerous support groups exist to offer both medical and emotional support. 

Seek these out and lean on them. Their dedication reflects the ongoing commitment to caring for those whose health was impacted by this national tragedy.