We are not used to focusing on our breathing as long as we don't encounter problems and care for our lung health as much as we should to prevent the diseases of our respiratory system.
November is the month to focus on two illnesses that can hinder breathing: COPD and lung cancer. To help those suffering, many health organizations specialize in preventing and treating these debilitating diseases. Health programs teach proper breathing techniques to ease the burdens of the two conditions. Still, for their work to be accomplished, individual awareness is needed to acquire better self-management skills and help reduce the severity of the illnesses.
According to the CDC, about 146,000 Americans die from lung cancer yearly, one of the most frequent cancers in both men and women. An estimation by the American Lung Association shows that 15.3 million Americans suffer from COPD, and several additional millions are likely to have undiagnosed COPD.
The VA's numbers show that nearly 8,000 veterans are diagnosed and treated for lung cancer each year, and around 900,000 are at risk for lung cancer. The VA's yearly estimate for COPD is approximately 500,000 diagnosed patients.
Several Risk Factors Associated With Military Service May Contribute to Developing Both Diseases
Veterans have a higher rate of developing both lung cancer and COPD due to exposure to environmental factors during and after military service, often topped by habits like smoking. Navy veterans faced the significant risk of asbestos exposure by fulfilling their duty on the Navy ships, increasing their chances of developing chronic lung diseases. The health conditions associated with asbestos are generally diseases of the lungs; for those who served on ships, asbestos exposure was an addition to the other risk factors that can cause lung cancer or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease:
- smoking cigarettes
- secondhand smoke for nonsmokers
- contact with carcinogens
By being mindful of the possibly encountered risk elements, there's a good chance to prevent, diagnose, and treat these lung diseases adequately and timely.
Asbestos Exposure Can Lead To COPD as a Complication of Asbestosis
Before the mid-1970s, the Navy used asbestos-containing products while constructing warships. As a result, asbestos was everywhere on these ships, and the Navy members may have come in contact with it during the maintenance or repair of vessels and their day-to-day operations. When inhaled, the asbestos fibers can cause asbestosis, a chronic disease that makes the lungs harden. Veterans who have asbestosis can develop COPD as a complication. Asbestosis takes decades to appear, and most of the time is discovered in advanced stages, so being mindful of the symptoms can be life-saving:
- persistent dry cough
- loss of appetite
- shortness of breath
- muscle aches
- pain in the chest or shoulder
- unintentional weight loss
- clubbing of the fingers
Similarly, COPD can begin years before it reaches the stage of breathlessness. That's why it is crucial to watch out for its signs and symptoms:
- chronic coughing
- blue-colored lips or fingernail beds
- the tendency to catch lung infections frequently
- fatigue from struggling to breathe
- swelling in feet, legs, and ankles
Ignoring the symptoms or not considering them serious wastes precious time when the disease could have been diagnosed in its early stages and treated immediately. During the advanced stages of COPD, patients tend to experience frequent flare-ups. After each burst, their lung function further deteriorates and will not return to the level it was before, making breathing more complicated.
We Offer Immediate Assistance to Navy Veterans Suffering From the Effects of Asbestos Exposure
Military asbestos exposure is the cause of many pulmonary affections Navy veterans struggle with. The abundance of asbestos products used on the ships exposed everyone serving on them to the high risk of inhaling or ingesting the asbestos fibers. Frequent lung checkups help get an accurate diagnosis and prevent the aggravation of any symptoms. Veterans should visit a pulmonary specialist qualified to treat lung diseases caused by prolonged asbestos exposure to ensure their condition is correctly evaluated, the diagnosis is accurate, and they access the most advanced treatments.
A correct asbestos-related cancer diagnosis from a pulmonologist will help you qualify for compensation from the VA for your condition should you consider taking legal action and filing a claim. We can connect you with the best attorney for your case, who will help with the documentation and then represent you during the process so that you can focus on your treatment and recovery.