Lung Cancer Misdiagnosis, a Common Occurrence

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By consuming vast amounts of asbestos-containing products until the late 1970s, the U.S. Navy constantly exposed its service members to the dangerous asbestos fibers. By the time the health risks associated with asbestos had become widely known, more than 300 asbestos-containing materials were regularly used in building ships for the Navy.

Asbestos was applied in most parts of a ship, from the engine and boiler rooms to navigation rooms, mess halls, and sleeping quarters. It was a versatile insulating material mandated for Navy ships, making exposure to the microscopic fibers impossible for all personnel serving onboard or those building the vessels.

The damages caused by longtime exposure to asbestos appear only after decades of inhaling or ingesting the fibers. Lungs are primarily affected as the tiny asbestos parts penetrate the lining of the lung and get caught and lodged in it, causing irritation, inflammation, and scarring. These irreversible processes lead to the development of asbestos-related cancers like:

As the fibers continue scarring the cells, tumors will form over time, and cancerous conditions may develop. Inflammation and scarring can cause asbestos diseases that are not cancers:

Even though these illnesses don't make veterans eligible for compensation, they have the potential to turn into cancer. With a precise cancer diagnosis related to asbestos exposure, former service members may qualify to file claims.

Given the long latency period, asbestos-related diseases often go undetected until the advanced stages. Still, there are signs of degenerative processes in the lungs before they become difficult to treat:

Individuals in service of the Navy before the early 1980s should make an appointment with the doctor as soon as possible when experiencing any of the symptoms to prolong life expectancy. Paying attention to the symptoms is of the essence, as non-cancerous asbestos-related illnesses have the potential to turn into cancer. Over time, the asbestos fibers irritate the lung tissue enough for cell mutation and tumors to form.

Lung Cancer Can Be a Complication of an Asbestos Disease

In the U.S., lung cancer is one of the most common types of cancer. Based on data from the CDC, around 200,000 individuals are diagnosed with this cancer each year, and about 150,000 people die from it, ranking lung cancer as one of the deadliest cancers. Like asbestos diseases, most lung cancers don't show signs until they have spread. Having been exposed to asbestos over a long period, Navy veterans should pay extra attention and consult a doctor immediately if experiencing any of the symptoms:

  • chronic cough
  • coughing up blood
  • rust-colored sputum
  • chest pain
  • wheezing
  • hoarseness
  • unexplained weight loss
  • chronic headaches
  • bone pain

If detected in its earliest stages, lung cancer can often be well treated and sometimes even cured. Time is of the essence, so if the symptoms are ignored or the condition gets misdiagnosed, cancer can progress to an advanced stage. For this reason, requesting a second or even a third doctor's opinion outside the VA is essential, especially if the recommended course of treatment doesn't bring alleviation.

Other Diseases May Produce Lung Cancer Symptoms

Unfortunately, sometimes physicians won't suspect lung cancer because the symptoms may align with those of other benign respiratory illnesses. Early signs can be misleading and thus misdiagnosed, significantly impacting the outcome and quality of life. Many of lung cancer's early symptoms, shortness of breath and coughing up blood, are also typical for other diseases like:

  • pneumonia
  • asthma
  • COPD
  • acid reflux
  • allergies
  • COVID-19
  • heart disease
  • encysted lung effusion
  • bronchitis and bronchiolitis
  • gastroesophageal reflux disease

As a first step in detecting lung cancer, doctors may use imaging tests, including:

  • X-ray
  • CT scan
  • MRI
  • PET scan

Misdiagnosis mostly happens when reading these imaging tests; a mass or lump appearing in the images can be non-cancerous and needs further testing to verify the presence of lung cancer. When testing for lung cancer, physicians should also test for these conditions as possible alternative diagnoses:

  • lymphoma
  • tuberculosis
  • lung nodules
  • bronchial pneumonia
  • encysted lung effusion
  • lung abscesses
  • Hodgkin's lymphoma
  • pulmonary embolism

Beginning a lung cancer treatment when it is a different disease causing the symptoms or showing as a mass on an X-ray can be very harmful. The condition is set to worsen while undergoing unnecessary treatment. Furthermore, cancer therapies such as radiation or chemotherapy can significantly hurt healthy cells and bring unnecessary suffering in the case of misdiagnosis. To prevent such painful experiences and add years to life, veterans should always ask for a second or even a third doctor's opinion outside the VA when diagnosed with any of these diseases or even when diagnosed with lung cancer. Another expert opinion will also help establish adequate therapy in due time.

Receiving an Accurate Cancer Diagnosis Makes You Eligible for Compensation

On top of mandating the use of asbestos on the Navy ships, the military bought the mineral from manufacturers who knew its dangers but withheld information about its toxicity. Consequently, Navy veterans who served between the 1930s and the 1980s were unknowingly exposed to the harmful effects of asbestos and developed fatal diseases due to the toxic fibers.

If you are a veteran of the Navy, U.S. Army Transport Service, Coast Guard, Merchant Marine, or Air Force, you become eligible for disability compensation if diagnosed with asbestos-related cancers:

  • bronchial cancer
  • lung cancer
  • laryngeal cancer
  • gastrointestinal cancer
  • pharyngeal cancer
  • mesothelioma
  • colorectal cancer
  • esophageal cancer
  • urogenital cancer

Medical bills are a burden for many veterans. Still, a skilled lawyer can help and guide you through filing a claim to receive compensation for expensive new diagnostic tests and treatments, lost wages due to time off at work, and more. In the unfortunate event that you are suffering from a disease, we offer help by connecting you with experienced attorneys ready to help.

If you have a cancer diagnosis please contact us

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