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Uterine cancer joins list of 9/11-related diseases covered by federal health program

An American flag at ground zero on the evening of Sept. 11, 2001, after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City.
Mark Lennihan
An American flag at ground zero on the evening of Sept. 11, 2001, after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City.

Uterine cancer is now recognized as the latest 9/11-related disease.

Women, who lived, worked, went to school near to the September 11th terror attacks, or were first responders to Ground Zero, and were later diagnosed with uterine cancer, can register for the Victim Compensation Program and access government-funded healthcare from the World Trade Center Health Program.

WSHU’s J.D. Allen spoke with Sara Director, a partner at Barasch & McGarry, about how recognizing this 9/11 disease will help over 200 women with uterine cancer she represents.

WSHU: Sara, this is the first disease added in nine years. Uterine cancer is number 69 on that list. What are other examples of diseases already covered?

SD: So, there's 68 other cancers that are covered and it really is almost every cancer you can think of, from lung cancer to thyroid cancer, prostate cancer, rare cancers, ovarian cancers, melanoma, and skin cancers, including basal and squamous cell.

Then, there's also a host of respiratory illnesses that have been linked to the toxins as you would expect breathing all that toxic air in, from asthma, COPD, rhinosinusitis, sinusitis, even GERD, Barrett's esophagus: The list, unfortunately, is very long.

WSHU: How many women diagnosed with uterine cancer are expected to become eligible for treatment through the World Trade Center Health Program? Starting when?

SD: The federal register rule was published today and there is no waiting period, nor should there be. Cancer is a life or death situation, and any further delay would cause additional harm to the 9/11 community.

My firm, Barasch & McGarry, already represents over 200 women who have been diagnosed with uterine or endometrial cancer, and many of them, unfortunately, have already been certified for another illness, say, breast cancer or asthma, and they received medical treatment and compensation for those illnesses. Now, they can receive that medical treatment and compensation for the newly added uterine cancer.

WSHU: This rule also applies to the families of those who died of 9/11-related uterine cancer to seek compensation. What does that cover?

SD: So what that covers is if a family member was exposed to the toxins from September 11, 2001, to May 30, 2002 — that's the exposure period, and the exposure zone is below Canal Street — if they are finally found eligible, a claim can be made to the Victim Compensation Fund for the pain and suffering they endured during their lifetime as a result of the uterine cancer, as well as a wrongful death claim associated with their passing as a result of the 9/11 uterine cancer.

WSHU: How does this rule change begin to close a gender gap in services?

SD: For too long, women's cancer, uterine endometrial cancer, have been understudied and ignored within the 9/11 community. Statistically, when the medical community first started looking into higher numbers of cancers in 9/11 responders, they were looking at mainly men. And while women certainly did volunteer their time, more men were involved in the early days.

What the medical community didn't anticipate is that 9/11 survivors would also fall ill to the same types of cancers. And those survivors would include students, teachers, office workers, residents, lower than canal streets, who are made up of 50% of women. So, for two decades, these women, be they first responders, office workers or teachers, haven’t been able to get the treatment and compensation they feel rightly deserved.

A native Long Islander, J.D. is WSHU's managing editor. He also hosts the climate podcast Higher Ground. J.D. reports for public radio stations across the Northeast, is a journalism educator and proud SPJ member.