Veterans who have served our country are at risk of developing mesothelioma as a result of asbestos exposure. Asbestos is a fire resistant mineral that was used in thousands of products due to its insulation properties prior to the mid 1970s. Asbestos is banned for virtually all uses in the United States today, and acknowledged as the cause of tens of thousands of asbestosis, asbestos cancer and malignant mesothelioma deaths among American veterans and workers.
Our military veterans experienced asbestos exposure while serving our country and are at risk of developing mesothelioma or another fatal asbestos disease. Asbestos was used for insulating boilers in building furnace rooms and Navy engine rooms, for fire protection in walls, doors and floors, and for thousands of products that needed a fireproof, resilient material such as brakes and clutches.
Today there are approximately 25 million veterans in the United States from all wars and all branches of service. While veterans represent 8% of our nation’s population, veterans comprise 30% of all known mesothelioma deaths that have occurred in this country.
Navy Veterans are at greatest risk for mesothelioma because asbestos products were used in Navy ship yards and ships from the 1930s through the 1990s. Vietnam veterans who served from 1964 through 1973 are at great risk for contracting mesothelioma due to exposure to asbestos that was prominently used in ships, transport vehicles, garage repair shops and building construction materials.
The latency period for mesothelioma is typically between 15 and 50 years after the first exposure to asbestos. This means that veterans exposed to asbestos who retired from active duty decades ago can be experiencing mesothelioma symptoms today. A mesothelioma diagnosis is often delayed because many mesothelioma symptoms mimic symptoms of other, less serious illnesses:
- shortness of breath
- chest pain and/or persistent cough
- fever, night sweats and weight loss
- pain or swelling in the abdomen, nausea, weight loss, bowel obstruction, anemia or swelling of the feet due to build-up of fluid
A thorough history, physical exam, and diagnostic tests are needed to evaluate asbestos-related disease. Chest x-rays are the best screening tool to identify lung changes resulting from asbestos exposure. Lung function tests and CAT scans also assist in the diagnosis of asbestos-related disease.
Being exposed to asbestos does not mean that you will develop an asbestos related disease. If you are a Veteran and believe you may have been exposed to asbestos, keep this important advice in mind:
- Don’t smoke. The combination of cigarette smoke and asbestos together significantly increase your chances of getting lung cancer.
- Schedule regular medical examinations