The health risks associated with asbestos became widely known in the early 1980s, and the Navy stopped using asbestos-containing materials on the new ships. Nonetheless, decades of construction, repair, or renovation of ships in the shipyards and service on these vessels exposed the personnel to the harmful effects of asbestos.
Asbestos breaks into microscopic fibers that can remain suspended in the air for hours and become stuck within tissues if breathed in or ingested. The fibers penetrate deep into the pulmonary system and, over time, can cause lung scarring, making breathing progressively difficult.
Asbestos exposure is responsible for asbestosis and other respiratory system diseases, among them idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) - the most common type of interstitial lung disease. According to the results of many new studies, a proportion of IPF may be due to unknown exposure to asbestos. As the symptoms and presentation of asbestosis and IPF can be identical, the key to their diagnosis is whether a patient knows about their asbestos exposure.
Early Detection Can Change Life Expectancy for Veterans Diagnosed With IPF
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is a chronic disease that affects the tissue surrounding the air sacs in the lungs. It is the most common type of pulmonary fibrosis - a disease that causes scarring (fibrosis) of the lungs.
Like with all illnesses caused by asbestos fibers, the sooner you're diagnosed, the sooner your treatment can begin. The progression of the disease differs from person to person, and there can be no signs at first, but the following symptoms can develop as the disease evolves:
- persistent dry cough
- chest pain or tightness
- loss of appetite
- shortness of breath
- muscle aches
- joint pain
- unintentional weight loss
- clubbing of fingers
- leg swelling
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis can look a lot like other regular lung diseases, making the diagnostic process challenging. Aside from the physical exam that consists of listening for abnormal sounds like crackling with the stethoscope, there are a series of concluding tests for identifying IPF:
- blood tests
- imaging tests (chest X-ray or a CT scan )
- pulmonary function tests
- oxygen desaturation study
Misdiagnosis is a Very Common Incidence When Dealing With Asbestos Exposure
Since the symptoms of the pulmonary diseases that develop from asbestos exposure are very similar to those of the common pulmonary affections, asbestos-related conditions often get misdiagnosed.
Given that a correct diagnosis is most important for receiving the proper treatment and obtaining compensation, it is advisable to get a second or even third opinion from doctors outside the VA.
When establishing the diagnosis of an asbestos-related disease, a detailed medical and occupational history is needed, along with a chest X-ray and CT scan showing the damage in the lung tissues. The tests will ensure that veterans receive a precise and correct diagnosis and avoid the distress of being misdiagnosed.
An Asbestos-Related Cancer Qualifies Veterans for Financial Compensation
If you've served on a ship or worked in a shipyard before the early 1980s, chances are you were exposed to asbestos. When experiencing any of the described symptoms, it's strongly advisable to consult a doctor and receive a diagnosis.
Should you consider taking legal action and filing a claim with the VA to receive the financial compensation you deserve, a correct asbestos cancer diagnosis will help you qualify for payment and provide you with the medical documentation needed for claims. If you, a fellow service member, or a loved one were exposed to asbestos and diagnosed with asbestos cancer, we can help you contact the best legal specialist for your case.