If you served in the military before 1980, chances are you were exposed to asbestos in some form or fashion. Some veterans were exposed more than others, depending on their MOS (military occupational specialty). Asbestos is an extremely common mineral used for a wide variety of purposes for its fire-resistant and insulating properties. While regulations have limited the use of asbestos considerably since 1970, it is still found in some construction materials and older buildings.
Asbestos is a fibrous mineral found in rocks and soil. Prior to 1980, it was commonly used in building and construction materials in buildings, homes and schools. In fact, the United States Geological Survey states that asbestos manufacturing reached an all-time high in 1977 with 4,800,000 tons produced. Asbestos is one of the deadliest dusts in existence, causing health problems including mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma is a cancer of the mesothelium caused by exposure to asbestos. The mesothelium is a thin membrane that protects and lubricates body cavities, such as the chest and abdominal cavity.
|Types of Mesothelioma||Facts||Symptoms|
|Accounts for 3 out of 4 mesothelioma diagnoses because most asbestos fibers in inhaled, lodging in the lining of the lungs||Effusions|
Shortness of breath
Persistent dry cough
Persistent chest pain
|Peritoneal||Accounts for about 20% of all diagnoses. Caused by ingesting asbestos fibers.||Abdominal pain|
|Pericardial||Rarest kind of mesothelioma. Caused by asbestos fibers working their way to the lining of the heart||Difficulty breathing|
Asbestos fibers, when ingested or inhaled, are very difficult for the body to expel, so the fibers end up in the membrane (mesothelium) surrounding the lungs, chest, stomach and abdomen, and in rare cases the heart. Over time, these fibers collect and agitate the membrane, causing damage to the cells and development of scar tissue. This causes otherwise healthy cells to become abnormal and replicate constantly, which leads to the growth of tumors. These tumors most often grow on the scar tissue in the lungs, but they can develop in the stomach/abdominal lining as well.
Mesothelioma takes 20 to 50 years to manifest. Because this type of cancer takes so long to develop, the symptoms often occur without warning. Most patients are diagnosed with mesothelioma after experiencing a persistent cough or pneumonia-like symptoms.
The VA does not have a specific rating for mesothelioma. Instead, the VA uses ratings comparable to the conditions caused by mesothelioma, such as COPD, pulmonary fibrosis, and asbestosis (for pleural mesothelioma cases).