PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Halloween is the last day of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Doctors have seen a spike of breast cancer cases among people who worked at Ground Zero after 9/11. Hundreds of people from the area were killed or injured in the collapse of the World Trade Center 18 years ago. The lingering health impacts of 9/11 continue to emerge, now mainly with cancer.
A Philadelphia victim recently applied to the new compensation fund.
Ellie Barbarash and Gertie are inseparable. The medical service dog moves into action when Barbarash can’t.
Barbarash has a litany of serious health issues related to working in the rubble after 9/11.
“I’m an occupational safety and health specialist,” she said.
Barbarash, who worked for Con Ed at the time, is among the estimated 400,000 people exposed to toxins at Ground Zero.
When she was unable to work after the disaster, Barbarash, who’s a single mother, moved to Philadelphia, where she’s slowly putting her life back together.
“I’m in chronic pain,” she said. “I will be in chronic pain for the rest of my life.”
Three years ago, she was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer. It can take years after toxic exposure for cancer to develop.
“We’re unfortunately seeing a rise in cancers,” World Trade Center Health Program Dr. Michael Crane said.
“My law firm alone represents 40 guys with breast cancer,” 9/11 attorney Michael Barasch said. “It’s heartbreaking. Breast cancer sadly is the third most common cancer in the 9/11 community after skin cancer and prostate cancer.”
Barasch is representing Barbarash and 15,000 others working to get money from the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund that Jon Stewart fought for.
“I’m very grateful to him,” Barbarash said of Stewart.
Barbarash’s case is pending. While she still juggles medical challenges, she still feels lucky.
“A lot of people did a lot worse — I think about 5,000 of us or more have already died,” she said. “So I’m very grateful for what I’ve regained.”
A survivor of Ground Zero and all it’s lifelong repercussions that Gertie now helps manage.
“She’s a 24/7 dog,” Barbarash said.
Barasch says Barbarash is entitled to $250,000 and health care coverage. He’s concerned not enough people who were exposed after 9/11 are getting the compensation they deserve.
Eighteen years later, so many families are still suffering.