During the past century, more than 20 million veterans were exposed to asbestos during military service, particularly those in the U.S. Navy. Estimates revealed over 300 different asbestos products on every ship before 1980.
Over time these hazardous products became friable, and when disturbed, they would release millions of toxic fibers into the air, making exposure inevitable. Consequently, more than 30% of veterans today struggle with a disease caused by military asbestos exposure. When inhaled, asbestos fibers penetrate the lining of the lungs, and they get lodged in the lining, tearing it as the lungs are trying to clear them out, causing scarring.
Asbestos-related scar formation is irreversible and may slowly progress since some asbestos fibers remain in the lung even if the exposure stops. The microscopic asbestos fibers can remain in the lungs for up to 50 years before generating a diagnosable disease. In most cases, doctors don't consider an asbestos illness when treating a veteran with symptoms like:
- shortness of breath
- persistent dry cough
- pain in the chest or shoulder
- loss of appetite
- muscle aches
- unintentional weight loss
- clubbing of the fingers
For all personnel in service of the Navy before the early 1980s, making an appointment with the doctor as soon as possible is of utmost importance if experiencing any of these symptoms. Immediate action prolongs life expectancy and facilitates finding the proper treatment in time.
Paying attention to the first signs is essential because asbestos-related non-cancerous diseases tend to turn into cancer. Slowly but surely, the asbestos fibers lodged in the lung's lining will irritate the lung tissue enough for cell mutation and the tumor to form. It is why prolonged exposure to the fibers can cause asbestos-related cancers:
- bronchial cancer
- lung cancer
- laryngeal cancer
- gastrointestinal cancer
- colorectal cancer
- esophageal cancer
- urogenital cancer
- pharyngeal cancer
The complexity of diseases caused by asbestos exposure makes their misdiagnosis a common incident. Most doctors can easily misread the symptoms and unintentionally delay treatment when time is of the essence. Veterans should ask for a second or even a third doctor's opinion outside the VA to receive an accurate diagnosis and begin restoring their health as soon as possible.
More Precise Clinical Analysis Through Alveoli Sampling
Because the signs and symptoms of asbestos-related lung conditions are similar to those of other common and less severe respiratory diseases, specialists often use differential diagnostic tools to complete the initial tests. Bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) or bronchoalveolar washing is an essential diagnostic tool for local investigations.
Diagnosing an asbestos-related illness generally begins with chest X-rays to see the number of fibers caught in the lining and how much they have scarred the lungs. However, a chest X-ray may have limited relevance in mild or early asbestos-related pulmonary disorders. The imagistic tests are conclusive but not always sufficient to identify parenchymal diseases such as lung cancer, asbestosis, and restrictive lung disease. A more accurate evaluation requires several steps, including bronchoscopy, which allows a healthcare provider to assess the lungs.
BAL is a standard procedure sometimes done during bronchoscopy for evaluating certain lung diseases as it makes sampling the lower respiratory tract possible. The process involves putting a saline solution through the bronchoscope to wash the alveoli and gather a fluid sample. The results are correlated with other clinical and radiographic details to meet a precise diagnosis, even for pulmonary disorders challenging to analyze. The efficiency of BAL is high (66%) as compared to washings (57%), brushings (40%), or transbronchial biopsy (44%). Bronchoscopy with BAL is applied in the diagnosis of lung disorders like:
- bacterial infections
- fungal infections
- lung cancer
One or both tests may be used if an imaging test shows a potential problem with the lungs. Doctors may need the tests when presented with specific symptoms of lung disease, such as:
- persistent cough
- trouble breathing
- coughing up blood
Ruling out a diagnosis is more manageable with BAL, as the procedure is almost equal to bronchial biopsy in sensitivity and specificity.
Can Bronchoalveolar Lavage Detect Lung Cancer?
Longtime asbestos exposure dramatically increases the risk of developing terrible diseases such as lung cancer. Once they enter the body, asbestos fibers cannot be eliminated. Lungs are affected in the first place as the tiny asbestos parts perforate their lining and cause irritation, inflammation, and scarring, ultimately leading to the development of both benign and malignant asbestos diseases.
Diagnosing abnormal cell growth in the lung is often a problem for pulmonologists because some malignant lesions mimic infectious or inflammatory diseases. As clinical reports have demonstrated, BAL can provide diagnostic material in both primary and metastatic lung cancer cases.
Bronchoalveolar lavage plays an essential role in the cytologic diagnosis of lung carcinoma. For example, if you've already been diagnosed with lung cancer, the test can help show its severity. BAL is a less invasive investigative tool preferred over invasive needle biopsies and thoracoscopy when taking samples for clinical examinations.
You May Qualify for Compensation or Financial Assistance if You Are Diagnosed With a Malignant Disease Caused by Asbestos
Because asbestos was found in nearly every part of Navy ships built between the 1930s and mid-1970s, the personnel was at an increased risk for health concerns. Navy veterans diagnosed with cancerous conditions due to service-related asbestos exposure may seek compensation through the Department of Veterans Affairs. The number of benefits a veteran of the U.S. Navy receives will vary depending on the severity of their condition.
Should you consider taking legal action and filing a claim with the VA to receive the financial compensation you deserve, we can help you contact the best legal specialist for your case.