Digestive Illnesses and Injuries
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Digestive Illnesses and Injuries in September 11th Survivors

Digestive illness and injury can range from a manageable condition with mild irritations to serious and deadly diseases. Due to the wide range of digestive diseases and injuries, symptoms, treatments, and outcomes vary drastically. If you or someone you love suffers from digestive illness or injury related to September 11th, contact the law firm of Pitta & Baione to discuss your eligibility for benefits from the Victim Compensation Fund.


Digestive injuries are often the result of some other injury or trauma. During the attack on the World Trade Center, many people were injured during the escape, rescue, and recovery from the twin towers. Injuries impacting the abdominal area were also prone to damage the digestive system, disrupt the digestive tract, and even result in digestive illnesses.

In addition to digestive illness and injuries, there are many cancers eligible for benefits under the Victim Compensation Fund. Digestive system cancers included in the WTC Health Program include cancer of the colon, esophagus, stomach, rectum, Rectosignoid junction (a part of the intestines), and the Retroperitoneum and peritoneum (an anatomical space in the abdominal cavity).

Listed below are digestive illnesses and injuries that 9/11 survivors may suffer from:

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is when stomach acid backs up into your esophagus, throat, or even mouth. It is more commonly known as acid reflux or heartburn. GERD is the second most common condition recorded by The World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program. To date, nearly 30,000 survivors and first responders are suffering from GERD.

While most people get occasional heartburn, individuals with GERD suffer from nearly constant symptoms. The resulting chest pain, nausea, and difficulty breathing can significantly impact your ability to enjoy life.

There are multiple tests and medical professionals available to diagnose and treat GERD. If left untreated, GERD can develop into much more severe conditions such as Barrett’s Esophagus and digestive system cancers.

Barrett’s Esophagus

The esophagus is the lower portion of the tube that connects the mouth and the stomach. Chronic inflammation or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) can lead to Barrett’s Esophagus. Over time, stomach acid damages the lining of the esophagus. Because the esophagus is continuously trying to repair itself, irregular and precancerous cells can form. In patients with Barrett’s Esophagus, these cells are similar to the ones that line the stomach.

Some patients with Barrett’s Esophagus will develop precancerous tissue, called dysplasia. Precancerous cells increase the risk of esophageal and other digestive system cancers. Patients with Barrett’s Esophagus need regular upper endoscopy examinations with biopsy as a precaution. There is no way to reverse the cell damage in the patient’s Barrett’s Esophagus; however, frequent monitoring can prevent much more serious conditions from developing.

Digestive System Cancers

According to the research by The World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program, four out of the top 15 most common types of cancer from 9/11 responders involve the digestive system. Some of the most common gastrointestinal cancers are found in the colon, esophagus, stomach, rectum, liver, small intestine, and retroperitoneum and peritoneum.


Common symptoms of digestive illness include but are not limited to the following:

  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Heartburn
  • Incontinence
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pain in the belly
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Weight gain or weight loss unexpectedly
  • Shortness of breath

Of course, some digestive illnesses will have more specific signs and symptoms associated with a particular disorder. Just as the diseases can link to one another in the digestive system, symptoms can also link to one another. Diarrhea, heartburn, pain in the abdomen, and difficulty swallowing can all lead to decreased appetite and nutrient absorption, leading to weight loss and declining overall health.


Often digestive illnesses and injuries are related to one another. The impact of one digestive illness can cause injury in another part of the digestive tract. As these disorders build on one another, conditions can become more severe and require more medical intervention. September 11th survivors may start out experiencing symptoms of one illness, only to find over time they have a number of illnesses and injuries relating back to 9/11.

For example, the bile and acid from GERD can lead to the esophagus becoming restricted, inflamed and otherwise damaged. Esophagus problems can lead to esophageal cancer. Likewise, intestinal polyps can develop into cancer as well.


Some digestive illnesses are treated by diet modification as well as taking over the counter medications to alleviate symptoms. Some illnesses require more intensive medical therapy and treatment to provide relief.

Treatments for digestive cancer can include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, targeted drugs, or even immunotherapy. The treatment of digestive cancers is constantly evolving. There are clinical trials and other experimental therapies available to many patients.

When digestive cancer is caught early there is a much higher chance of recovery. Unfortunately, most people don’t discover their gastrointestinal cancer until it is already advanced. Advanced stage digestive cancer is treatable, but rarely fully cured.

As with all illnesses and diseases, treatment will depend on the severity of the condition. In some severe instances, surgery will be necessary to treat the condition.


If you or a loved one suffer from a digestive disease related to exposure from September 11th, contact a 9/11 attorney at Pitta & Baione by completing our online contact form or calling us at 844-901-1312.