Asbestos Exposure May Cause Symptoms That Need Further Investigation in Navy Veterans


If you served in the U.S. Navy between World War II and the late-1970s and were assigned to shore or afloat commands, any rank or rating, but particularly as machinist's mate, maintenance technician, pipefitter, or boilerman, you may have been exposed to asbestos and have asbestos-related diseases and do not even know you have these diseases.

"Nothing about respiratory protection was ever discussed or made accessible to any of us during those years. I was never advised nor were any of my shipmates of the health hazards associated with asbestos exposure and to be tested to detect lung scarring", stated a Navy veteran who served as a jet technician aboard the USS Hornet (CV/CVA/CVS-12) for almost four years.

Early signs of asbestos-related cancer may be confused with aging, being out of shape, or a variety of other less severe medical problems. Even when symptoms worsen, it may be challenging for healthcare providers to establish the link between current symptoms and asbestos exposure in the past. We hope that by sharing this blog you will understand the need to accurately get diagnosed and get proper treatment.

Navy Veterans Diagnosed at VA Hospitals Should Ask For a Second Opinion If They Did Not Qualify for VA Compensation

J. Chandler, machinist's mate aboard the USS Sellers (DDG-11), said: "I was an MM3 from 1988 to 1999. Portsmouth Naval hospital said I didn't have any symptoms. Do I still qualify?"

Expert Opinion

"Asbestos-related illnesses, which mostly affect the thoracic area, include asbestosis, pleural effusion, pleural plaques, diffuse pleural thickening, lung cancer, bronchial cancer, and pleural mesothelioma. Typically, patients with asbestos-related respiratory diseases exhibit no symptoms until the disease has advanced significantly. For instance, pleural effusion and pleural plaques are asymptomatic, meaning that they do not usually cause any symptoms. However, every case is unique, and the majority of the early symptoms of pleural mesothelioma closely resemble those of many less severe conditions, including asthma, tuberculosis, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema, together referred to as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). As a consequence, the early symptoms of asbestos-related illnesses are often overlooked or misinterpreted. This, in turn, will cause the whole process of diagnosis and subsequent treatment planning to be delayed. A second medical evaluation from a specialist in asbestos-related diseases is critical in determining the most accurate diagnosis of your ailment and the best treatment approach. In addition, getting a correct diagnosis will help you recover the right amount of compensation that you deserve", says Gregory A. Cade, an attorney who specializes in Environmental Law and Asbestos Occupational Exposure and has over 25 years of experience compiling successful asbestos cases for his clients.

If You Are a Navy Veteran, Get Screened for Asbestos Fibers

If you were a member of the United States Navy and are suffering symptoms such as a dry cough, wheezing, shortness of breath, or persistent chest pain, talk to your doctor about it. He/she will likely refer you to a doctor specializing in lung problems, a pulmonologist. During the visit, your doctor will monitor your lung function and ask you to provide an outline of your work history to determine how much you were exposed to toxic chemicals. Therefore, it would be prudent to prepare the following information in advance:

  • The onset and severity of your symptoms
  • Previous treatments and how they helped
  • The nature of your job, the products with which you came into contact with, as well as whether or not you used protective equipment
  • Smoking history
  • Any previous medical records, such as chest X-rays or CT scans

It is critical to notify your doctor that you have been exposed to asbestos so that they can determine what tests to schedule for you in order to thoroughly examine your lungs. However, if they do not schedule the following tests for you, you must request them since they are the most accurate in determining the extent of the damage caused by asbestos fibers to your lungs. If you plan to pursue an asbestos exposure claim, your legal team will need the results of these tests, which is another important reason why you should request them.

  • A chest X-ray. This imaging test will allow your doctor to determine if you have asbestos fibers in your lungs and, if so, how much damage they have caused to your lung tissue. If the X-ray is inconclusive, your doctor will order further testing, particularly if anything worrisome is detected. Please ask the doctors and radiologists if they detect any scarring, nodules, or spots on your lungs; sometimes they won't tell you until you ask, and even if they claim these are normal, if asbestos fibers are present, they will continuously scar the lungs and progressively get worse.
  • Pulmonary function tests. Pulmonary function tests, which are a set of tests that assess factors such as how much oxygen you can absorb via your lungs and your capacity to breathe, are another effective diagnostic technique in evaluating someone who has been exposed to asbestos.
  • CT or MRI scan. If your chest X-ray reveals lung scarring, pleural plaques, or lung nodules, your doctor will order a CT or MRI scan, which are more reliable imaging tests than a chest X-ray and enable your doctor to study the asbestos damage to your lungs in more detail.

Even If the Symptoms Are Mild, Insist That They Be Further Investigated

Sometimes, there are no indications or symptoms of asbestos exposure that a person may detect before developing an illness. It may take 10 to 40 years or more from the time of first exposure to the onset of symptoms. The most frequent symptoms of asbestos-related diseases are chest discomfort and shortness of breath. Please be aware that most of the time, these are not signs of aging, but rather the onset of an asbestos-related disease.

"My dad was in hospital after a fall that resulted in a rib injury. While being treated, doctors noticed a shadow on his lung, which they thought was fluid. After getting discharged from the hospital and returning home, dad insisted on having his radiographic findings be investigated further. He was referred to a doctor with specialized knowledge in the diagnosis and treatment of asbestos-related diseases, who asked him when he had been diagnosed with mesothelioma, a type of cancer caused by inhaled asbestos fibers. He replied that he hadn't been diagnosed. My dad passed away on May 20th, 2018, aged just 63 due to mesothelioma. He was a career officer who served in World War II; exposure to asbestos early in his Navy career likely caused the disease that killed him", stated the daughter of a Navy veteran.

Because the vast majority of diseases that emerge as a result of asbestos exposure have many of the same symptoms as more prevalent health problems, misdiagnosis is widespread. Therefore, you need to be tested by a medical expert who specializes in asbestos-related illnesses to get reliable test results.

If you served in the Navy and have difficulty breathing, chest pain, or ongoing cough, you may have a viable claim. We can help you by putting you in touch with experienced attorneys who can help you get the compensation you deserve as soon as a diagnosis is confirmed.

Questions about asbestos exposure? We can help!

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