Mesothelioma and the Military- What is the Connection?

Mesothelioma is a very rare and specific form of cancer that attacks tissue lining the organs of the body. There are several common types that can be caused by asbestos exposure- pleural, which affects the lungs; peritoneal, which affects the abdomen; and pericardial, which affects the heart. As many as 75- percent of all mesothelioma cases are pleural in nature. All forms of mesothelioma are caused or greatly worsened by exposure to asbestos.


The Military Mesothelioma Connection

Many members of the military have unfortunately been exposed to asbestos sometimes a very high levels for extended periods of time, as a result of their time in the service. While the Navy is the largest branch of the military to see mesothelioma cases, other branches are also at risk. This is because asbestos was widely used in the construction of many things used by all branches of the military. This includes tanks, submarines, aircraft, sleeping quarters, mess halls, underground bunkers, shipyards, and many more applications that put military personnel in direct and almost constant exposure to asbestos. This is why it is important for anyone who might have been exposed to asbestos while in the military to know the symptoms and discuss testing options with their health care provider.

The latency period, the time between asbestos exposure and diagnosis, can be decades long. For many patients diagnosed 15 to 60 years after their initial exposure to asbestos, the disease is already in an advanced phase when they begin to suffer symptoms of shortness of breath and chest pain. At this late stage of diagnosis, the average survival time is less than a year. Although there are many factors doctors look at to determine a patient’s prognosis and mesothelioma life expectancy, doctors, patients, and cancer advocates are now emphasizing the importance of early detection. They all agree that in order to increase the effectiveness of treatment options leading to an increased survival time, early detection is critical. Sadly, there is no treatment to reverse the effects of asbestos once the fibers have caused scarring of the lungs and asbestosis. While the disease can be slowed down in terms of progression, and symptoms can be treated, there is no cure.


Where could asbestos be found in military use?

Asbestos is a mineral that’s found naturally in the environment. The fibers that make up this mineral are strong and resistant to heat, which is why they were used for decades in applications, such as in insulation, brakes, drywall, roofing materials, shingles, flooring, plumbing, tiles, and many other products. The danger of asbestos is when it gets into the body- specially into the lungs. “When asbestos is broken up, such as during the mining process or when removing asbestos insulation, dust may be created. If the dust is inhaled or swallowed, the asbestos fibers will settle in the lungs or in the stomach, where they can cause irritation that may lead to mesothelioma. Exactly how this happens isn’t understood. It can take 20 to 40 years or more for mesothelioma to develop after asbestos exposure. Most people with years of asbestos exposure never develop mesothelioma. And yet, others with very brief exposure develop the disease. This indicates that other factors may be involved in determining whether someone gets mesothelioma or doesn’t. For instance, you could inherit a predisposition to cancer or some other condition could increase your risk” (Mayo Clinic).

The most common way that people suffer asbestos exposure is through their jobs. Some professions put workers in direct contact with asbestos materials and thus long-term exposure results in the development of mesothelioma. However, secondary exposure can also happen when family members are exposed to asbestos brought home on the clothes of family members.


What we don’t know about mesothelioma

While anywhere from approximately 3,000 to 5,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year in the U.S. there is still much that we do not know about this disease and how it progresses. We can define mesothelioma, and are knowledgable as to the causes and affected industries. We do not understand why it can lie dormant for decades after exposure to asbestos in some people and in others show symptoms within a few years. There is still no known cure for mesothelioma and the treatments we do have are more about giving people the best quality of life for whatever time they have rather than focused on curing the disease and extending the life of the patient. The number of people diagnosed with mesothelioma has been increasing in recent decades.

If you or a loved one has been affected by asbestos, you do not have to fight alone or suffer in silence. We are here to put our years of real world case experience to work so contact us today and let our team of experienced experts go to work for you on your case and fight for your rights!  Call us today to get started and to get the help you deserve!