Although thyroid cancer impacts less than 2 percent of the general population, it is one of the top five cancers afflicting 9/11 responders. Thyroid cancer is particularly problematic to diagnose, because the disease is often present in an individual without producing symptoms. Pain is very uncommon, but some patients may develop a lump on their neck and/or experience a hoarsening of their voice.
Because thyroid cancer can lie hidden, at-risk individuals must take proactive steps to have the disease detected. The New York City Council has granted money for thyroid cancer screenings, but screenings have not been readily available for 9/11 survivors outside the city. This year, however, State Senator Terrence Murphy secured state money for screenings in the Hudson Valley.
Westchester PBA president and 9/11 first responder Sgt. Michael Hagan told News 12 Westchester that he knew those who has been at Ground Zero were susceptible to certain cancers after breathing in toxins, but he didn’t know how prevalent thyroid cancer was in those responders. He said the screening along with early detection offers people like him “peace of mind.”
The good news, according to thyroid cancer surgeon Dr. Gary Clayman, is that most thyroid cancers are very curable. In patients younger than 50, the most common types of thyroid cancer have a 98 percent cure rate when treated appropriately. However, other types, such as medullary and anaplastic thyroid cancer, have poorer prognoses.
But, as with all cancers, a key factor in achieving a positive outcome is early detection through screening. Thyroid cancer screening starts with a high-resolution ultrasound to spot nodules on the gland. These are not necessarily worrisome, since 75 percent of the general population develops thyroid nodules, and most are benign. But if the screener finds a nodule, the next step is a guided needle biopsy to determine if the nodule is malignant.
Present at the initial Hudson Valley screening, Sen. Murphy remarked that based on his observations, “There have been some people here today that I believe we might have saved their life.”
At Barasch & McGarry, we urge people who were present in lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001 and in the days, weeks and months that followed to register with the WTC Health Program and get screened for 9/11-related cancers and other illnesses. If you get a diagnosis of a 9/11-related cancer, you may be eligible for benefits from the Victim Compensation Fund.
Barasch & McGarry helps responders and others affected by 9/11 illnesses get the benefits they deserve. For a free consultation with a lawyer who understands your situation and can help, please contact us online or call 888-351-9421.