Of the individuals who have been or are currently being diagnosed with mesothelioma, veterans represent a particularly susceptible group who were repeatedly exposed to asbestos decades ago. Veterans who served in the military between 1940 and 1980 are members of the demographic commonly diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, or lung cancer caused by inhaled asbestos fibers. Extensively implemented in building ships and other military equipment, asbestos was later found to be toxic to humans and eventually banned from use in the early 1980s. However, as veterans entered their 50s, 60s, and 70s, they discovered they were suffering from similar symptoms of chest pain, breathing difficulties, pleural fluid retention, and extreme fatigue. Although industries and manufacturing plants were aware of the possibility of asbestos being carcinogenic, they continued to use the product because of its cheapness and durability.
Navy veterans were especially vulnerable to asbestos exposure because of its widespread use in navy ships as well as sleeping quarters, boiler rooms, galleys and engine rooms. Soldiers and builders of these naval vessels were exposed for years to asbestos fibers, tiny slivers of toxic material which lodged in lungs and tissues. Second-hand exposure to asbestos has even been documented by doctors who have found mesothelioma in those who did not work directly with these ships but inhaled asbestos fibers due to the fibers circulating and spreading via air transmission.
The Department of Veterans Affairs assists veterans in a variety of ways. Those who are eligible for services from the Veteran’s Health Administration can seek help if a diagnosis of mesothelioma is made. In addition, if you suspect you were exposed to asbestos during your military years, the VA may be able to offer you an examination for mesothelioma to find out if exposure caused the development of asbestos cancer. Early detection of mesothelioma is probably the only way to successfully treat this insidious cancer. However, since mesothelioma has a long latency stage, many veterans do not discover they are suffering from disease until 30, 40 or 50 years later.