Mesothelioma is a growing problem among veterans in the United States. Asbestos exposure is the primary factor in mesothelioma development. Since over 22.7 million veterans have been exposed to asbestos, mesothelioma must be addressed in the veteran population. Veterans were exposed to asbestos while working in the naval shipyard with fireproofing materials and insulation. In the 1970s, asbestos use decreased, but the damage to veterans who had inhaled the mineral while on the job had already been done. Veterans who were exposed to asbestos between 1950s and 1980s are developing mesothelioma today and are most at risk.
What Were the Most Likely Areas of Exposure?
Veterans are one of the largest populations at risk for asbestos exposure. In fact, 30 percent of veterans serving before 1970s were probably exposed to asbestos in some form or another. Veterans who served in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s almost could not avoid asbestos in their daily jobs.
Asbestos was used extensively in World War II and Vietnam War. During both wars, military personnel were exposed to asbestos on naval shipyards. These people also exposed their family, friends and neighbors to asbestos by coming into contact with others while the small, but dangerous mineral was on their clothes. If the minerals were airborne and inhaled by family members, they are also at risk for developing mesothelioma now.
By the time it develops, most people cannot even remember how and when they were exposed to asbestos if they were not working with the material on a daily basis. Exposure could have occurred in a number of places since asbestos was commonly found in living quarters, kitchens, boiler room insulation and engine rooms. Gaskets, pipefittings, cables, cement and joint compound also contained asbestos.
Asbestos was so effective the military put the material everywhere they could. Even when they were notified of its potential health effects, the military continued to use asbestos in applications because no other material was as effective as asbestos.
Be Proactive and Get Checked Out Today!
The mineral is deadly. It may lie dormant in the body for 10 to 50 years before developing into mesothelioma. Most people would not even think they have mesothelioma because the early symptoms of the disease are similar to the flu or the common cold. Most physicians misdiagnose mesothelioma because the symptoms resemble other common ailments. This is why it is important to tell the physician you may have been exposed to asbestos at some point in your life.
After you initiate the discussion with your physician, he or she will advise you how often to return for checkups. If mesothelioma does develop, it will be detected in its early stages and can be treated before it spreads. Veterans are advised to be proactive in their healthcare to improve their prognosis.
Veterans are Not Receiving the Care They Need
Veterans are not receiving the medical care they need because of lack of resources. There are over 600,000 Veteran Administration claims pending in the VA due to veterans seeking help. There are also 123,000 disability claims of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma are dealing with the same challenges as other veterans seeking help.
Unfortunately, veterans are not able to seek compensation for asbestos exposure from the American government. The United States government instead views the mesothelioma as an illness and will provide resources to veterans. Veterans must prove the exposure for asbestos occurred while in the military. If veterans prove the exposure occurred from another exposure, they can sue the asbestos manufacturers.
Veterans Should Seek Care From a Physician
If you begin to experience symptoms and you have been exposed to asbestos, you should seek care immediately. Early diagnosis could improve a mesothelioma patient’s prognosis significantly. Though there is a wait list for resources, veterans should sign up early in the process. The earlier the process begins, the more likely veterans will receive help before the cancer spreads. Get the help you need today and contact the Veterans Administration (VA). ~Doug
Doug is a former Petty Officer Second Class for the United States Navy. He currently writes about Veteran heath, for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance.