While serving on active duty, Navy personnel faced significant exposure to various types of contaminants, among them asbestos. The mineral was affordable, had tensile strength, and resisted heat and chemical damage, making it ideal for insulating Navy ships. Furthermore, various asbestos-containing materials were extensively used in the shipbuilding process, exposing everyone involved in building the vessels for the WWII war effort.
In most cases, service members were unaware of the hazards they were exposed to and lacked the equipment to protect themselves. It resulted in their inevitable exposure to hazardous levels of asbestos fibers and thousands of veterans developing severe asbestos diseases decades later. Numerous studies have demonstrated over the years that exposure to toxic substances like asbestos can cause various cancers and other life-altering diseases. With an alarming number of U.S. active duty service members and industrial workers in contact with high concentrations of asbestos between the 1930s and the 1980s, a significant number of people are now at risk for asbestos-related cancer, such as:
- pharyngeal cancer
- colorectal cancer
- gastrointestinal cancer
- lung cancer
- laryngeal cancer
- esophageal cancer
- urogenital cancer
- bronchial cancer
Veterans diagnosed with these types of cancers meet the eligibility criteria for expedited claims and immediately qualify for compensation if they have proof of asbestos exposure and their medical papers show one of the conditions mentioned above.
A Typical Radiological Appearance of Asbestos-Associated Diseases
Benign and malignant illnesses stemming from asbestos exposure feature various formations on imagistic tests. Ground glass opacity or ground glass opacification (GGO) describes the hazy gray areas in CT scans of the lungs because of an increased density inside them.
Lungs usually appear black in X-ray and CT scans, indicating they are free of visible blockages. However, gray areas mean that something partially fills the air spaces inside the lungs. The description "ground glass opacity" derives from a glassmaking technique during which the glass's surface is blasted by sand, giving the glass a hazy white or frosted appearance. If your lung exams show formations like this, you should call a pulmonologist to investigate the nodules further.
GGOs are a subset of pulmonary nodules called part-solid nodules and can pose significant challenges for physicians when establishing a diagnosis. Because hazy appearances or non-uniformities are most strongly associated with lung cancer when detected in CT or other imaging tests, determining the cause and the nature of a GGO requires knowledge of patient history. It is why Navy veterans should openly talk about their time on the ships and the chances of asbestos exposure while serving. When GGO nodules are spotted in the lungs, a longer follow-up time is necessary as they often grow slowly, and if malignant transformation does occur, the process may take years. Besides a malignant disease, GGO changes can represent other conditions, such as:
- lung infections
- lung edema
- increased lung perfusion
- interstitial diseases
- cancerous growth
The earlier GGOs are identified, the earlier a therapy can be established for the disease that produces these opacities. It's important to note that CGOs do not necessarily indicate malignancies. They can also be the temporary result of a common, short-term illness. Depending on the cause, shape, size, quantity, and location, opacities will vary, forming several types:
- Diffuse opacities appear in multiple lobes of one or both lungs and occur when the air in the lungs is replaced with fluid or damaged tissue resulting from inflammation.
- Nodular opacities can indicate benign and malignant conditions; GGOs present over several scans may indicate premalignant or malignant growths.
- Centrilobular opacities form within the lung lobules, but the connective tissue between the lobules is clear.
- Mosaic opacities develop when small arteries or airways within the lung are blocked.
- Crazy paving opacities show up as a linear pattern when the spaces between the lobules widen.
- Halo sign opacities fill the area around the nodules.
- Reversed halo sign opacities create an area surrounded by liquid-filled tissue.
During the diagnostic procedure, doctors will take note of all characteristics, including the distribution of the opacities, to determine their likely cause. For a precise diagnosis, there may be more tests necessary, such as:
- lung function tests
- sputum tests
- blood tests
- lung biopsy
- CT scan
Sometimes, doctors may also order electrocardiography and echocardiography to see if a person's lung problems could be the result of a heart condition. Because most GGOs are the result of an infection, those that are the result of an asbestos-related disease may be easily misinterpreted. Veterans can help with a correct assessment by sharing information about their military years with the pulmonologist.
Periodic Check-Ups Help You Discover Asbestos-Related Illnesses on Time
Many times, diseases stemming from asbestos exposure can be challenging to diagnose because they produce similar symptoms as other regular and less severe respiratory disorders. Most doctors misread the signs, conclude an inaccurate diagnosis, and prescribe inappropriate treatments, consuming valuable time. To avoid situations like this, veterans should request a second or a third doctor's opinion outside the VA for a thorough evaluation of their illness. Being open about the risk of asbestos exposure on Navy ships built before the 1980s can further increase veterans' chances of an accurate check-up and could uncover non-cancerous asbestos diseases like:
- recurrent pneumonia
- rounded atelectasis
- chronic bronchitis
- pleural effusion
- pleural plaques
- pleural thickening
- pulmonary fibrosis
- lung nodules and spots
Benign asbestos diseases don't qualify a veteran for compensation, but they may develop into cancer and should be kept under observation. By scheduling periodic chest X-rays and pulmonary function tests, malignant transformations can be spotted, and an asbestos cancer diagnosis will make veterans eligible for claims. It's essential information that eligibility has a statute of limitations of up to five years from the date of diagnosis. The deceased veterans' family members can file a claim for three years from the date of the loved one's passing.
Helping Navy Veterans by Connecting Them With a Qualified Lawyer
Former U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, U.S. Army Transport Service, and Merchant Marine personnel who served between World War II and the late 1970s should immediately make an appointment with the doctor and schedule a screening when experiencing symptoms such as:
- pain in the chest or shoulder
- persistent dry cough
- shortness of breath
- night sweats
- general weakness
- unintentional weight loss
- respiratory system complications
Veterans diagnosed with asbestos-related cancer may qualify for monetary compensation from the asbestos trust funds and the VA.
Although the legal procedure is complicated, a lawyer specializing in asbestos cases and with extensive professional expertise can significantly help. We can assist you in contacting legal experts who can help you receive the indemnification you deserve for your pain and suffering.