Each year, November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month and features Veterans Day, the memorable holiday paying homage to veterans of the military forces and those killed on duty.
As we celebrate and recognize veterans and the many ways they have served the country, we should also acknowledge the risks they faced during service.
While some suffered grave battle injuries or gave their lives for the nation, others' health was permanently damaged by the hidden hazards they faced during service, including exposure to pollutants and harmful substances like asbestos. Exposure to toxic materials may later lead to the development of lung cancer, mesothelioma, and other severe diseases. One way to support veterans is by raising awareness about lung cancer, a life-threatening illness linked to their service.
Elevated Lung Cancer Risk for Veterans
Lung cancer is the number one cause of death from cancerous diseases in the U. S., and veterans have a 25% higher chance of developing lung cancer than the general population. Navy veterans have a much-increased risk because of asbestos's abundant presence on the ships built before the 1980s.
Celebrated building material of past times, asbestos was a staple in shipbuilding during the 20th century because of its exceptional heat resistance and insulating properties. It was a perfect fit for fireproofing naval vessels, and everybody ignored the threat arising when its microscopic fibers were released into the air and inhaled. It led to millions of shipyard workers and sailors facing daily a high risk of asbestos exposure and developing malignant diseases like lung cancer many years later.
Compared to the general public, all members of the armed forces were more at risk of developing diverse types of cancer. Their exposure risk occurred while they fulfilled duty in contaminated military facilities nationwide. Toxic chemicals like PFAS contaminate more than 700 U.S. military bases, and regular or prolonged exposure to PFAS is associated with an accentuated risk of developing cancer.
A relevant high-risk area is Camp Lejeune, a Marine Corps Base in North Carolina. A vast part of its water sources had hazardous chemical contamination from 1953 to 1987, contamination linked to various diseases, including lung cancer. Veterans who served on military bases throughout the country may also have been exposed to chemicals like toxic solvents used in regular military tasks:
- paint stripping
- thinning oil-based paints
After continuous or repeated contact with these toxic substances over a long period, veterans and their families who accompany them to military bases may be at risk of developing life-threatening illnesses.
Taking Action Against Lung Cancer
Given that many veterans might not realize they have faced exposure risks to toxic materials, raising awareness about related diseases can help veterans seek support. Being proactive is the strongest defense against lung cancer: it's about former military personnel taking control of health, making informed decisions, and being ready to face any health challenges that may come their way.
In the battle against lung cancer, the strength and resilience of our veterans are more than needed. Taking the necessary steps for timely detection and treatment fits a veteran's way of handling challenges, as the military style of taking action remains deeply ingrained. Early diagnosis of lung cancer with regular check-ups improves outcomes, but it is crucial for former military personnel to understand their unique lung cancer risks:
- Asbestos - veterans who worked in specific military specializations, such as shipbuilding or construction, or served aboard naval vessels may have been exposed to asbestos, a known carcinogen.
- Air pollution - in some deployment locations, air quality may have been compromised by dust, smoke, or chemical emissions.
- Family history - veterans with a family history of lung cancer should be particularly vigilant about screenings.
- Smoking - is the number one cause of lung cancer. Those who started smoking during service are at a higher risk.
- Prior lung disease - veterans formerly diagnosed with lung diseases, like COPD or tuberculosis, have an increased risk of lung cancer.
- Secondhand smoke - involuntary inhalation of smoke, particularly pertinent in shared living or recreational areas in military facilities, can also increase the risk of lung cancer.
Undergo a Lung Cancer Screening and Safeguard Your Lung Health
Veterans are encouraged to see their healthcare provider about getting screened for lung cancer and to commit to their lung health by knowing the risks, understanding the symptoms, and not delaying a medical check-up if something doesn't feel right. According to statistics, approximately 8,000 veterans are diagnosed and treated in the VA for lung cancer each year, and around 1.5 million veterans should be screened for lung cancer due to increased risk. Surveys show that less than 1 in 7 lung cancer cases is diagnosed in the earliest stage when the disease is most treatable.
To discover malignant diseases in a developing phase, veterans should take advantage of the resources available through the VA, including annual lung cancer screening. The procedure is painless and can drastically improve survival rates; imagistic diagnosis is made with a special X-ray, known as low-dose computed tomography (LDCT). It's the most effective method for detecting lung tumors in their incipient phases. The VA offers annual lung cancer screenings for veterans aged 50 to 80 who have a smoking history of 20 packs per year, are currently smoking, or those who have quit within the past 15 years.
Former service members should make lifestyle changes to ensure or better their lung health and decrease the risk of lung cancer with steps like:
- stopping smoking
- eating a healthy diet
- staying physically active
And last but not least, a big hurrah to all veterans who quit smoking! A survey from 2021 shows that the rate of veterans enrolled in VA health care identified as smokers dropped nearly 20%, underscoring the fact that it's never too late to quit.
We Offer Immediate Assistance to Navy Veterans Suffering From the Consequences of Asbestos Exposure
Military asbestos exposure is the cause of many pulmonary conditions Navy veterans struggle with. The considerable amount of asbestos products used on the ships exposed everyone onboard to the possibility of inhaling or ingesting the asbestos fibers.
It is why veterans diagnosed with cancer stemming from their asbestos exposure during service may receive compensation through the asbestos trust funds and the VA. The severity of their illness determines the number of benefits they can receive, and they must comply with a statute of limitations of up to five years from the date of their diagnosis.
Should you decide to take legal action and file claims with the asbestos trust funds and the VA to receive the deserved indemnification, we can assist you in contacting the best legal expert for your case.