Last week we looked in-depth at a rare disease (Wegener’s) as it relates to World Trade Center dust exposure. This week we look at one of the more common diseases, breast cancer, and its association as a 9/11 Related Cancer. Breast cancer has received increasing public attention. From celebrities like Angelina Jolie who drew awareness to genetic testing and surgery to prevent hereditary breast cancer; to the recent debate over mammography screenings.
As part of our continued efforts to educate the public on the connection between illnesses and World Trade Center dust exposure, we take a closer look at this cancer.
The Science Behind 9/11 Related Breast Cancer
According to the World Trade Center Health Program, female invasive breast cancer is the sixth most commonly certified cancer among First Responders and Survivors; breast carcinoma in situ (non-invasive) is the fifteenth most widely certified.
Initially, breast cancer was included in the List of Covered Cancers after scientific literature established a causal connection to individuals experiencing nighttime sleep disruption associated with WTC response and clean-up shift-work. A subsequent publication by The Lancet Oncology determined a causal link between polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and breast cancer in humans.
The WTC Health Program found that PCBs were present in the WTC dust in the New York City disaster area. As a result of these findings, the Program (which runs under the VCF) certified those exposed to PCBs following the WTC disaster.
Experts consider PCB’s and some other substances found to be present at the WTC site as “endocrine disruptors.” Another study found that PCB’s “enhanced the metastatic properties of breast cancer cells by activating rho-associated kinase.”
Case Study of Breast Cancer in a 9/11 Responder
Our office has extensive experience in advocating for complicated and metastatic breast cancers in 9/11 Victims. One case in particular, involving a female Police Officer is noteworthy. This First Responder sustained extensive exposure to the WTC dust and debris. Her physicians diagnosed her with two separate and distinct breast cancers; carcinoma in situ of the breast (inside the milk duct of the breast) and malignant neoplasm of the breast (invasive breast cancer). Subsequent testing revealed that her breast cancer was of high grade and aggressive. Genetic testing confirmed she was negative for the BRCA gene, a gene implicated in hereditary predisposition to breast cancer.
This client required extensive and aggressive treatment for her breast cancer, including lumpectomy to her left breast (for the two tumors), year-long concurrent radiation and chemotherapy treatment, and the oral anti-hormonal drug Tamoxifen, which she will require for at least the next five years. As a result of the Tamoxifen therapy, the client experiences chronic and debilitating side-effects, notably severe muscle and joint pain, requiring an electric bed. She has also lost her teeth as a result of her cancer treatment. Because her case is found eligible under the Fund, she will be able to receive much-needed financial and emotional compensation.
Much of the public is unaware of the connection between Breast cancer and World Trade Center dust exposure. It is our hope that our in-depth review here will better inform the public; particularly those exposed to the WTC dust and debris, including residents and office workers in the area.
We will continue to fight for those seriously injured as a result of 9/11 exposure. Our office remains current on all 9/11-related medical updates, and we review the new scientific literature as it becomes published. Our extensive experience and knowledge of 9/11 related cancers are integral to the submission of claims to the VCF.
If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer or any other cancer, and you unsure whether you would qualify for compensation under the Fund, please call our office at 888-WTC-VICTIM for a free, no-obligation consultation.