Veterans who have been exposed to asbestos are at risk of developing problems in the lungs and the membrane that surrounds the lungs, including:
- Asbestosis – Scarring of lung tissue that causes breathing problems
- Pleural plaques – Scarring in the inner surface of the ribcage and area surrounding the lungs that can cause breathing problems, though usually not as serious as asbestosis.
- Cancer – The two types of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos are lung cancer and mesothelioma, a cancer of the thin lining surrounding the lung (pleural membrane) or abdominal cavity (the peritoneum). Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer usually caused by asbestos exposure.
Possible signs of mesothelioma include shortness of breath and pain under the rib cage. Mesothelioma is diagnosed by using tests that examine the inside of the chest and abdomen. Factors that affect prognosis and treatment options for veterans include:
- stage of the cancer
- size of the tumor
- whether the tumor can be removed completely by surgery
- amount of fluid in the chest or abdomen
- age and general health, including lung and heart health
- type of mesothelioma cancer cells and how they look under a microscope
- whether the cancer has just been diagnosed or has recurred
Each mesothelioma diagnosis is unique to a veteran’s particular background and circumstances. Only a trained physician can help you understand treatment options and evaluate how the treatment fits in with your particular circumstances and stage of your disease. As you explore resources and treatments on this website and other sources available on the internet, you will be well prepared to discuss every available option with your doctor.
Oncologists are physicians who focus on the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Some oncologists specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of mesothelioma. A list of some of the best mesothelioma doctors in the country is provided in the doctors section of this website.
With the help of the American Cancer Society, the Mayo Clinic and the New York University Medical Center, we have compiled a list of questions to ask your doctor that will help you and your family members become as informed as possible.
A central question among oncologists is whether there might be a yet-to-be-discovered treatment for mesothelioma that might surpass current therapies. Several new methods are currently being explored.
- Chemotherapy – Researchers are testing the effects of dozens of new drugs on mesothelioma growth. Many of these substances already inhibit the the growth of other cancers – like raltitrexed, an antimetabolite that blocks rapid cellular growth, which has been used for colon cancer since 1998.
- Chemo administration methods – Scientists are now trying injecting drugs directly into mesothelioma tumors. This direct application has the potential to target carcinomas more directly and limit side effects.
- Photodynamic therapy (PDT) – A specially formulated drug is given intravenously in this mode of therapy. The compound is given several days to pass and settle into tumor cells before a light-emitting tube is inserted into the chest. The wavelength of light activates the drug (called a “photsensitizer”), which emits charged oxygen molecules, killing tumor cells. Though still in the trial phase, PDT is getting quite positive results.
Mesothelioma clinical trials
Veterans with grave illnesses like mesothelioma are in constant need of new and better medical treatments. These treatments evolve through testing. A clinical trial enables doctors to test and learn that a treatment is safe and effective for patients. Veterans who join mesothelioma clinical trials are doing their part to help advance the treatment of mesothelioma.
There is no guarantee that an experimental treatment will work better than an existing one. So although clinical trials come with risks, they provide more therapeutic options and an avenue for trying cutting-edge treatments. You can learn more about current trials for mesothelioma by reviewing the list featured on the National Cancer Institute website.
Veterans may be eligible for benefits provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for health problems associated with exposure to asbestos during military service. Benefits may include:
- Disability compensation – The VA pays monthly disability compensation to veterans for diseases related to military exposures during service. Veterans who have a service-related disability and were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable may be eligible for disability compensation. To learn more about eligibility, visit the VA website.
- Health care – The VA offers health care benefits for Veterans who may have been exposed to certain environmental hazards during military service. These services include health registry evaluations and clinical treatment at the VA’s War Related Illness and Injury Study Centers. Visit the VA website to find out if you qualify for veteran health care benefits.