Dr. Gaetane Michaud, Chief of Interventional Pulmonology at NYU Langone Health and its Perlmutter Cancer Center, emphasize the importance of an overlooked health issue today on SurvivorNet, a newly launched website for cancer patients and survivors, stating that approximately 300,000 people exposed to toxic air after 9/11 are at risk of developing cancer and are not getting the medical screening and attention they need.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has long maintained that around 400,000 people in lower Manhattanwere exposed to a dangerous mix of substances such as asbestos, lead, and benzene on the day of the attacks and in the weeks and months afterward.
The World Trade Center Health Program was set up by the federal government to help people with health problems related to the attacks obtain and pay for the care they require. To date, just 80,000 people have registered with the program ensuring appropriate screenings and/or care. Dr. Michaud and her team at NYU Langone have seen an increasing number of patients with 9/11 related illnesses and believe that many more people are not getting the help they need and may not even know about the health risks they face. In addition, Dr. Michaud is concerned that physicians caring for these people are also unaware of the concern and/or resources available to their patients.
“I feel heartbroken to know that if at the lowest number, we’re saying there are about 400,000 people that should be benefiting from the World Trade resources, and about 80,000 are actually benefiting from them, that’s a big discrepancy. There’s a lot of people out there that really need help and really need to be vigilant,” said Michaud. “It’s not just lung cancers. It’s lung cancers, breast cancers, esophageal cancers, and thyroid cancers to name a few. These people should be screened and be taken care of. Even if you think beyond cancers, there are all kinds of other World Trade related lung diseases.”
There is no exact consensus on the geographical radius around the World Trade Center site which constitutes a risk to human health. That said, the program radius considered for enrollment in the WTC Health Program is approximately 1.5 miles from Ground Zero.
Common 9/11-linked illnesses include chronic cough, asthma, sinus congestion, certain cancers, stress-related disorders, and many other diseases, according to the WTC Health Program.
“A lot of people that were near Ground Zero at the time, and even lived down there then moved away, have no idea what resources are available or that they should even be screened or are at risk,” Dr. Michaud states.
What to Do If You Are Worried About Exposure From 9/11
If you believe you may be at risk from exposure after the September 11 attacks, you can go to CDC.gov/WTC to enroll in the program. Dr. Michaud strongly urges people to tell their physicians if they believe they may be at risk or were in lower Manhattan at the time.
For patients and survivors alike, the wealth and quality of information on the site is invaluable. Users of SurvivorNet have overwhelmingly named it the most valuable source of information available about cancer care. For the majority of people already dealing with the burden and cost of cancer, flying across the country for multiple opinions or securing an appointment with a specialist featured on SurvivorNet is not an option. Through the platform, it brings expertise to all, creating power and comfort through shared information.
Dr. Gaetane Michaud is a Professor of Medicine and Cardiothoracic Surgery, and Chief of Interventional Pulmonology at NYU Langone Health and it’s Perlmutter Cancer Center. She has dedicated her professional career to treating patients with pulmonary and lung diseases. At NYU Langone, she has developed not only the Lung Cancer Screening and Nodule Program, but also the Interventional Pulmonary Section. These programs have grown rapidly on the academic, research, and clinical fronts under her leadership. As a result, NYU Langone has gained national and international recognition in these areas for excellence over the past 3 years.
Prior to NYU Langone, Dr. Michaud was at Yale where she developed a Lung Cancer Screening and Nodule Program and before that, she was the Associate Director of Interventional Pulmonology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School. During her time at Harvard, Dr. Michaud completed a Master’s Degree in Health Care Delivery Science (Outcome Research) from Dartmouth College.
Dr. Michaud completed her residency in Internal Medicine and Critical Care fellowship from the University of Ottawaand subsequently her Pulmonary fellowship at the University of British Columbia. She also received additional training in Interventional Pulmonology in France and South Africa. Prior to her medical training, Dr. Michaud received her medical degree from the University of Ottawa.