Tammy Kaminski can still recall the taste of benzene, a carcinogenic byproduct of burning jet fuel. For nine months after the 9/11 attacks, she volunteered for eight hours every Saturday at St. Paul’s Chapel, just around the corner from ground zero in New York City. She breathed in cancer-causing toxic substances, like fuel fumes and asbestos, from the smoke that lingered and the ash that blanketed the pop-up clinic where first responders could grab a meal, take a nap or get medical care.
But in 2015, when Kaminski, a chiropractor who lives in West Caldwell, New Jersey, was diagnosed with uterine cancer, she didn’t get the same help that other volunteers did. Although Kaminski, 61, and her doctors believe the cancer is linked to her time volunteering after 9/11, the federal health insurance and monitoring program would not cover her treatments for endometrial cancer — or those of anyone exposed to toxic substances from the attacks who then developed that form of uterine cancer.
That could change soon. In November, an advisory committee unanimously approved a recommendation to add uterine cancer to the list of diseases covered by the program for first responders and people who were in the vicinity of the terrorist attacks. It’s the fourth-most-common cancer among women. But, according to the advisory committee, it’s the only cancer the program doesn’t cover. The program’s administrator is expected to make a final ruling by mid-2022.