If you served in the Vietnam War between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, you may have been exposed to Agent Orange, a powerful defoliant used by the U.S. military to remove vegetation and destroy cover around bases.
Agent Orange has been linked to various health risks, including colon cancer.
Here’s what you need to know as a veteran who may have been exposed.
What is Agent Orange and How Do You Get Exposed?
Exposure to Agent Orange can occur through inhalation, ingestion, or skin contact.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer, the U.S. National Toxicology Program, and the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine have all identified a connection between Agent Orange exposure and multiple cancers.
One of the ways Agent Orange can lead to cancer is through DNA alterations and rapid cell division.
Exposure to Agent Orange can cause your cells to divide rapidly, leading to the formation of tumors.
If these tumors are not caught early, they can metastasize and develop into cancer.
Unfortunately, there is no specific test for Agent Orange exposure.
However, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) presumes exposure if you served on active duty during the time when Agent Orange was heavily used in Vietnam.
This means that if you served in Vietnam during the specified period, the VA considers your exposure to Agent Orange as presumed, making you eligible for certain benefits and compensation.
Colon cancer is one of the cancers that experts believe may be caused by Agent Orange exposure.
As a veteran who may have been exposed, it’s crucial to be aware of the potential risks and take appropriate precautions.
Regular screenings and early detection are essential in identifying colon cancer early and improving treatment outcomes.
What is colon cancer?
Colon cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States, and it can spread to other parts of the body, such as the liver or lungs.
Here’s what you need to know about colon cancer, its symptoms, and why early detection is key.
Know the Symptoms
Colon cancer can present with various symptoms that should not be ignored. Some of the common signs that may indicate colon cancer include:
Blood in stool: If you notice blood in your stool, it could be a sign of colon cancer. This symptom should be taken seriously and evaluated by a healthcare professional.
Changes in bowel habits: Persistent changes in bowel habits, such as constipation or diarrhea, could be indicative of colon cancer. If you experience unexplained changes in your bowel movements, it’s important to discuss them with your doctor.
Cramps or abdominal pain: Ongoing cramps or abdominal pain that doesn’t seem to have an obvious cause could be a warning sign of colon cancer. Don’t ignore persistent discomfort and discuss it with your healthcare provider.
Unexplained weight loss: If you’re losing weight without an apparent reason, it could be a red flag for colon cancer. Unintentional weight loss should be investigated by a healthcare professional.
Colon polyps: Colon polyps are growths that can occur in the colon and may be precursors to colon cancer. Regular screenings can help detect and remove polyps before they become cancerous.
Early Detection is Key
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above or have concerns about colon cancer, it’s crucial to see your doctor as soon as possible.
Early detection is key in improving treatment outcomes for colon cancer.
Your healthcare provider can perform screenings, such as colonoscopy, to detect any abnormalities in the colon and provide appropriate medical care.
What is the deal between colon cancer and agent orange?
Numerous studies conducted by the American Cancer Institute have found a compelling association between prolonged exposure to Agent Orange and an increased risk of colon cancer.
Agent Orange is a powerful herbicide and defoliant that was used during the Vietnam War to destroy vegetation, including around US military bases.
Unfortunately, exposure to Agent Orange has been linked to a range of health issues, including various cancers, and veterans who may have been exposed during their service should be aware of these potential risks.
Challenges in VA Recognition
Currently, the VA does not recognize colon cancer as presumptively caused by Agent Orange exposure during military service.
This means that veterans cannot automatically have colon cancer service-connected solely due to Agent Orange exposure.
While the VA does acknowledge the connection between Agent Orange and other cancers, colon cancer is not included in the list of recognized conditions.
Seeking Recognition and Compensation
If you believe that your colon cancer is a result of Agent Orange exposure, it’s essential to understand the process of seeking recognition and compensation from the VA.
Typically, veterans who receive VA disability compensation for cancer caused by Agent Orange exposure have been diagnosed with a recognized cancer by the VA and have submitted sufficient evidence to show either a service connection or a specific cause.
To demonstrate a specific cause, veterans can present medical evidence or seek the assistance of an expert opinion.
Hiring an expert who can provide a comprehensive report linking your colon cancer to Agent Orange exposure can strengthen your case for recognition and compensation.
It’s crucial to work with a qualified expert who is experienced in dealing with VA claims and can provide the necessary evidence to support your claim.
Is it possible to service connect colon cancer?
Don’t give up now! Many veterans have had success in appealing denials of their claim for disability compensation and have been able to establish a service connection between Agent Orange and colon cancer.
For example, in 2015, a veteran appealed his denial for a service connection between Agent Orange exposure and colon cancer and won.
The veteran submitted multiple letters and statements describing how his colon cancer affected his everyday life.
The veteran also submitted multiple notes and examinations from private doctors outside the VA health care system that proved his colon cancer was related to Agent Orange exposure.
What cancers are presumptively caused by Agent Orange exposure?
The VA has a list of presumptive cancers caused by agent orange. Those include:
- Soft tissue sarcoma
- Non-Hodgkins lymphoma
- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia
- Monoclonal gammopathy
- Respiratory cancers
- Prostate cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Bladder cancer
Suppose you are experiencing one of the above cancers in addition to your colon cancer or pre-cancerous colon polyps. In that case, you may be able to receive VA disability compensation for your condition.
Contact your VA representative or VA regional office to start the claims process.
VA Claims for Colon Cancer
If you have been diagnosed with colon cancer and think it is related to Agent Orange exposure during your active duty service, file a claim with the VA today. The scientific community believes Agent Orange exposure can increase your risk for colon cancer.
The VA may not recognize colon cancer as presumptively caused by exposure to Agent Orange now, but they may in the future. They changed their mind in 2021 and added Bladder Cancer, Hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism to the presumptive list.
In addition, you need to file a claim to appeal your decision. Remember: some veterans have had success on appeal and received service connection for colon cancer caused by Agent Orange exposure,
Don’t hesitate to reach out to the VA for help or our team at Hill & Ponton. The team at Hill & Ponton is highly experienced in helping veterans get the benefits they deserve.
What type of cancer is caused by Agent Orange?
The VA presumes Agent Orange causes several cancers. The VA currently recognizes the following cancers as caused by Agent Orange:
- Bladder Cancer
- Chronic B-cell leukemia
- Hodgkin’s disease
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Prostate cancer
- Lung cancer
- Larynx cancer
- Trachea cancer
- Bronchus cancer
- Soft tissue sarcomas
The VA may add to the list of cancers presumed to be caused by exposure to Agent Orange. You can stay updated on the current list at va.gov.
Does Agent Orange cause colon polyps?
The VA does not recognize colon polyps as caused by Agent Orange exposure. The VA denied this same claim in 2008. On the other hand, the scientific research community has noted that Agent Orange exposure may increase the development of colon polyps.
Only time will tell if the VA updates its guidance on colon polyps and Agent Orange exposure.
What is the average compensation for Agent Orange?
The average compensation for Agent Orange-related cancer is dependent on your symptom severity and ratings which determine your monthly compensation.
How do you know if you were affected by Agent Orange?
The Department of Veterans Affairs has a page on their website for Vietnam veterans to check if they were in an area sprayed with Agent Orange. The landmass of Vietnam is considered “boots on the ground” and presumptive for starters. There were also recent updates for Blue Water Navy. The page is AgentOrange.VA.gov.
If you cannot find your service information on AgentOrange.va.gov, you can call the VA at 800-772-1213.
If you are interested in learning more about filing for disability benefits, check out our FREE ebook The Road to VA Compensation Benefits .
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