Bladder Cancer, a Grim Outcome of Prolonged Asbestos Exposure

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Most U.S. Navy vessels built before 1980 were abounding with asbestos, a toxic mineral used for insulation and responsible for affecting the health of thousands of veterans and shipyard workers.

Navy personnel deployed on these ships risked developing asbestos-related diseases unbeknownst to them. Until the mid-1970s, when the health hazards associated with asbestos became extensively known, asbestos wasn't considered dangerous. Moreover, "the miracle material" coated Navy vessels from bow to stern due to its versatility and low price range. With asbestos everywhere on the ships, personnel onboard couldn't avoid exposure to its toxic fibers.

Asbestos comprises microscopic fibers that go airborne when disturbed and can be inhaled easily. It's the white dust many veterans have encountered during vessel maintenance or repair. The tiny fibers can lodge deep inside the lungs, and some may travel with the blood to major organs, causing an aggressive immune response as the body tries to remove them; the process leads to scarring, inflammation, and malignant growth over time. Former Navy service members diagnosed with asbestos-related cancer qualify for claims and may receive compensation if their medical records state diseases such as:

Asbestos Exposure Associated with Bladder Cancer

An analysis of medical studies discussing associations between occupational asbestos exposure and urinary bladder cancer states that being around asbestos for an extended period increases the chances of developing bladder cancer by 95%. The specialists found that asbestos exposure can significantly contribute to urinary tumors in some cases, as clearance of inhaled asbestos fibers may lead to their translocation from the lungs to the bladder.

Asbestos is a recognized lung carcinogen, but because the body primarily flushes out toxic agents through the urinary system, the bladder is exposed to the harmful effects of the microscopic asbestos particles. Another way asbestos fibers enter the renal system is by transferring from the gastrointestinal wall into the circulatory system, and blood flow will transport them to the urinary tract.

Occupational or environmental asbestos exposure is a plausible risk factor for bladder cancer, according to a few studies published between the 1980s and 1990s. Lab tests found toxic fibers in the urine of exposed individuals, reinforcing that urinary bladder tumors may develop upon prolonged exposure to the mineral. Other potential bladder cancer risk factors are:

  • smoking
  • age and gender
  • exposure to chemicals
  • chronic bladder problems
  • family history
  • parasitic diseases
  • Lynch syndrome

Bladder cancer may also be associated with exposure to elevated levels of PFAS - highly toxic chemicals polluting several military bases all over the US and the incipient cause of personnel developing malignant health after being stationed in those camps. Enlisted persons or their family members qualify for compensation if diagnosed with this type of cancer.

Veterans Exposed to Asbestos Have a Higher Bladder Cancer Incidence

Although researchers struggle to understand the extent of asbestos's dangers, academic works suggest that exposure to the hazardous material can cause or contribute to urinary bladder cancer. A few independent studies show that urogenital cancer develops in 10% of persons with asbestosis. Statistic analyses indicate that persons with a history of asbestos exposure have an estimated three-fold increase in bladder cancer risk compared to those without exposure. It underscores that asbestos exposure may increase an individual's risk for bladder cancer.

Urinary bladder cancer usually produces noticeable and sometimes painful symptoms from its developing phase. But most often, the disease is diagnosed after people tell the doctor about blood in the urine. It's the first sign of abnormal cell growth in the bladder. In its early stages, bladder cancer may be identified based on signs and symptoms such as:

  • blood or blood clots in the urine
  • burning sensation during urination
  • frequent and painful urination
  • inability to pass urine even if feeling the urge to pee
  • frequent urination throughout the night
  • lower back pain, especially on one side of the body

In some cases, bladder cancer doesn't produce the symptoms or signs described, or a common medical condition may be causing them, not cancer. The difference between common bladder problems and bladder cancer is apparent with diagnostic procedures such as:

  • urine tests
  • cystoscopy
  • tumor biomarker testing
  • CT or CAT scan
  • biopsy
  • MRI
  • PET scan
  • ultrasound

Veterans should be vocal about their military service to avoid misdiagnosis and to speed up the evaluation process by narrowing down the possible outcomes. Being correctly evaluated facilitates accessing the best treatment in time and reduces the events of the spread of cancer and its re-emergence.

Diseases Caused by Asbestos Exposure May Look a Lot Like Common Illnesses

The biological mechanisms of asbestos-related diseases are complex because they involve a multistep process of interactions between genetics, immune response, and predisposition to chronic reactions to toxic elements. That is why most doctors often misread the symptoms and misdiagnose these illnesses.

It doesn't help that the inhaled asbestos fibers harm the organs only in the long run, and by the time symptoms appear, the disease usually reaches advanced stages. In addition, signs of asbestos-related diseases can resemble those of other less dangerous respiratory conditions, making their correct assessment even more troublesome. It is why former Navy personnel should pay close attention to any changes in their health and make an appointment with their doctor when experiencing:

  • shortness of breath
  • wheezing or hoarseness
  • persistent cough
  • blood in the sputum
  • pain or tightening in the chest
  • difficulty swallowing
  • swelling of the neck or face
  • loss of appetite
  • unexplained weight loss
  • fatigue or anemia
  • clubbed fingers or toes
  • abdominal pain and swelling

To receive an exact diagnosis and adequate treatment, veterans should ask for a second or third doctor's opinion outside the VA. Being transparent about the military service also helps a correct evaluation. Mentioning the chances of asbestos exposure during service could lead to discovering benign asbestos diseases like:

Even though non-cancerous diseases won't qualify a veteran for compensation, they should be regularly observed, as they tend to develop into cancer. Chest X-rays and pulmonary function tests may detect them becoming malignant early on, and a cancer diagnosis will make veterans eligible to file claims.

Navy Veterans Diagnosed With Asbestos-Related Cancer May Receive Compensation Upon Filing a Disability Claim

Many veterans of the U.S. Navy who fulfilled duty between 1940 and 1980 were exposed to asbestos during service thanks to the mineral's extensive use in military ship construction at that time. Those diagnosed with cancer from asbestos exposure during duty are entitled to monetary compensation and may file claims to receive benefits from the asbestos trust funds and the VA.

Should you decide to take the necessary legal steps and begin the process for the deserved indemnification, we can assist you in contacting legal experts specializing in filing asbestos claims.

If you have a cancer diagnosis please contact us

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