Mesothelioma and Veterans

Mesothelioma is rare disease that forms in the lining of the lungs called the ‘mesothelium.’ This lining serves as a barrier against harmful cells that could be inhibiting the body. It also contains fluid that allows the organs to move freely and without friction around the body. This cancerous disease can also be found in the lining around the stomach and even around the sac that surrounds the heart. This type of cancer is often very hard to diagnose and treat. If a patient recognizes that they may be experiencing symptoms of mesothelioma, the cancer could be in a later stage. The later the cancer is diagnosed, the more difficult it is for doctors to treat and eliminate the cancerous cells.

If a person develops mesothelioma, there is almost a 100% chance that the person has been exposed to the harmful material known as asbestos at some point in their lives. Asbestos is a strong, highly manageable material that had been used for many years in many different work environments and homes. Left undisturbed, asbestos is not a dangerous material. If a home or business that contains asbestos in its dwelling is being remodeled or demolished, there is a strong instance for asbestos particles to be released into the air. Once inhaled, the asbestos fibers can become lodged into the lungs and establish scar tissue. After many years of scarring, cancerous cells begin to develop. The typical ages for those who are becoming infected are between 50 and 70. The link between mesothelioma and asbestos had become prevalent in the late 1970s, but more regulation and asbestos abatement have been in use most recently.

When people think of asbestos exposure, they think of the homes that they live in that have been built before 1970s, or companies that used asbestos in the materials and products they made. What most people fail to recognize, however, is that military personnel were also exposed to a large amount of asbestos during their service to their country. Veterans in the service between 1940 and 1970 were most susceptible for the inhalation of asbestos fibers. Military base workers and the families of each individual who had potentially been exposed share the danger with secondary contact. Even at that time, it was noted by certain researchers that asbestos was a dangerous material and should be used with caution. Those who were involved in Navy operations and worked in shipyards are in grave danger for developing lung diseases such as mesothelioma. This is apparent in those involved in the Navy because asbestos was widely used in, boiler rooms and engines of ships on different bases. Most workers were placed in rooms that lacked ventilation and space. Therefore, airborne particles were easily inhaled by those in the confined areas. Particles were also able to adhere to clothing, work gear and even the hair of individuals in these spaces.

The more frightening part of developing mesothelioma is knowing that dangerous exposure could have been lessened with the use of preventative measures. Some individuals who were responsible for keeping Navy soldiers within confined vessels that were asbestos contaminated knew that they were indeed infected with the dangerous fibers and did not tell their workers. There were also instances where there was information on the dangers of asbestos and what it could do to a person’s heath in later years and none of the military workers or volunteers knew about it. Mesothelioma in veterans, in essence, could have been prevented. If more was done to protect workers and clean up establishments that were contaminated with asbestos, less would be coming down with deadly lung diseases such as mesothelioma.

What doctors are finding today is that many are coming forth with symptoms that are similar to pneumonia. After research of health and work environment history, more veterans are being diagnosed with life threatening illnesses caused by lung related complications. Some, however, still do not know the health effects of this dangerous disease, and many may not even know that they were ever exposed in the first place. There are currently many resources that establish lists of areas within the military which were contaminated with asbestos particles. Support groups and research on diagnosis of mesothelioma and other lung diseases have been increasing everyday. It is important that military personnel that served between 1940 and 1970 be tested for possible asbestos contact. Veterans, just as others who have contracted this deadly disease, are entitled to compensation for damages caused by the negligence of employers. After initial diagnosis, it is important to speak to a doctor on what to expect in the next stages of the battle against mesothelioma.

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