(NEW YORK) -- Cancer rates among first responders and residents of lower Manhattan who were directly impacted by the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks are 15 percent higher than in the general public, according to a study of the World Trade Center Health Registry published earlier this year.
In 2010, the Victim Compensation Fund was established as part of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act to help offset the medical expenses of those who worked at Ground Zero, or lived, worked or attended school in the immediate area. Fifty types of cancers are eligible for financial support.
But time is running out to apply.
The deadline for filing initial paperwork is Thursday, Oct. 3. After that, the fund will no longer accept registrants, even for those who have a covered illness.
This is particularly troubling because, as Dr. Michael Crane, an assistant professor of preventative medicine at Mount Sinai, pointed out, the studies looking at 9/11 illnesses have only reviewed cases up to about 2008.
"We don't even really think about most cancers until at least 10 years after a toxic event but we are already seeing an increase here that is at or approaching statistical significance. This is the first clue that cancers might be elevated in this population," Crane told ABC News.
Once you sign up for the fund, you have two years to complete your filing. The process involves an examination by a doctor affiliated with the World Trade Center Health Program, submission of detailed medical records and medical bills, employment records, and affidavits from various people who can vouch for your whereabouts on 9/11 and the following year.
Filing the complete claim can take up to two years, and Arthur Schwartz, a principal at Advocates for Justice, said most claimants won't see any money for at least 18 months after that. Schwartz's firm helps eligible participants sign up and assists them in getting their claims processed for a small fee.
As of now, just 53 claim decisions have been made by the fund.
It's too late to request the forms by mail but several options still exist to file before the Oct. 3 deadline. You can find out more by clicking here.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio