A Potential Risk Factor for Lymphoma: Asbestos Exposure


Asbestos exposure is the culprit behind severe diseases that made numerous victims among Navy veterans. The Navy used massive amounts of asbestos before the 70s, putting many veterans at a high risk of developing various incapacitating health conditions decades after their service.

Because of its resiliency, asbestos was a sought-after material in shipbuilding. The same quality of resilience made asbestos the "miracle material" used in manufacturing various heat-resistant products applied all over the ships, making it a health hazard for all onboard: its fibers remain in the body for decades, resisting the body's natural defenses, facilitating mutations, and eventually cancer.

When disturbed, asbestos fibers go airborne and become easily inhalable. The microscopic fibers infiltrate the respiratory system and, over time, accumulate inside the lungs and may transit the body through the bloodstream. It is why there's no safe level of asbestos exposure and why researchers are still discovering the impacts on the body. Former Navy service members diagnosed with asbestos-related cancers are entitled to claims and may be eligible for compensation if their medical records state conditions like:

  • pharyngeal cancer
  • bronchial cancer
  • laryngeal cancer
  • lung cancer
  • gastrointestinal cancer
  • mesothelioma
  • esophageal cancer
  • colorectal cancer
  • urogenital cancer

Lymphoma is among the cancers that can be connected to a veteran's military service. It is a malignant disease of the lymphatic system that moves the lymph fluid through the bloodstream. Among the several important purposes of this system is transporting and removing waste products and protecting the body against foreign invaders like germs, fungi, and - potentially - asbestos. Lymphoma attacks the lymphatic system's most critical components:

  • spleen
  • bone marrow
  • thymus gland
  • lymph nodes

As an effect of exposure to toxic substances, more and more veterans develop one of the lymphatic system's cancer types:

  • Hodgkin lymphoma - the uncontrollable multiplication of special white blood cells, characterized by the development of the Reed-Sternberg cell
  • non-Hodgkin lymphoma - the category for all other lymphomas where the Reed-Sternberg cell is absent

According to the National Cancer Institute, non-Hodgkin lymphoma is among the most common cancers in the U.S., making up about 4% of all cancer diagnoses. Lymphoma and lymphatic cancers can be service-connected directly or as secondary conditions; they are also considered presumptive conditions under certain circumstances.

Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and Asbestos Exposure

Longtime exposure to asbestos fibers has been identified as a potential risk factor for Hodgkin- and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Several case reports and epidemiologic studies have linked asbestos exposure to non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Although scientists haven't yet reached a consensus, studies indicate that asbestos exposure could be a risk factor for different forms of lymphoma. The possibility of an asbestos connection for non-Hodgkin lymphoma is supported by findings showing that thoracic lymph nodes are essential elements of the clearance pathway of asbestos fibers.

Furthermore, the same studies showed a significant increase in non-Hodgkin lymphoma among men involved in asbestos-heavy industries. Similarly, due to their exposure to the toxic mineral on the ships, Navy veterans who served on vessels built before the 80s are at a high risk of developing the disease. All veterans should schedule a physical exam with their doctor immediately when experiencing signs and symptoms of lymphoma:

  • swollen nodes in the neck, armpits, or groin
  • chest pain, coughing, or trouble breathing
  • pain or swelling in the abdomen
  • unexplained weight loss
  • persistent fatigue
  • fever

Ask your doctor for blood tests, as it can help them detect the disease by one of its telltale signs like anemia or low levels of red blood cells. Other relevant tests that should follow to establish a proper diagnosis:

  • urine tests
  • imaging tests
  • biopsies

Tests are vital in avoiding misdiagnosis - lymphomas may often be misdiagnosed as a recurring infection, autoimmune disorder, or drug hypersensitivity reaction.

Asbestos-Related Illnesses May Generate Similar Symptoms to Common Health Conditions

Misdiagnosis is a common occurrence when it comes to health conditions developed due to breathing in microscopic asbestos fibers. Given the complexity of asbestos-related diseases, doctors can easily misread the symptoms and misdiagnose them for other common and less life-threatening respiratory conditions. It is why asking for a second or a third doctor's opinion outside the VA is essential for establishing an exact diagnosis and adding years to life by beginning the needed treatment without delay.

Tell your doctor about the military service to expedite identifying your condition efficiently. Speaking about asbestos exposure during service can narrow down the diagnostic possibilities and could disclose non-cancerous diseases caused by asbestos exposure:

  • asbestosis
  • rounded atelectasis
  • pleural plaques
  • pleural effusion
  • pleural thickening
  • pulmonary fibrosis
  • COPD
  • emphysema
  • lung nodules and spots
  • chronic bronchitis
  • asthma

Even if these diseases don't qualify a veteran to receive compensation, they should be checked regularly, as non-cancerous conditions related to asbestos exposure tend to develop into cancer. Regular chest X-rays and pulmonary function tests could reveal their turning into cancer, and a cancer diagnosis will make a veteran eligible for claims.

We Offer Assistance for Veterans to Receive Deserved Compensation

Lymphoma is a life-threatening condition that may require immediate treatment and regular monitoring, generating costs that can considerably weigh down the family's finances. Veterans who believe their lymphoma diagnosis results from military service may receive VA disability benefits if they can prove the service connection.

Former service members diagnosed with asbestos-related cancers may be eligible for disability benefits to cover their costs. We offer assistance by connecting you with skilled attorneys to help you with your case.

If you have a cancer diagnosis please contact us

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