A dangerous disease stalks veterans

A few times people have asked me if I accept guest posts. Once it was from a friend from high school who is now an Army veteran, and I was happy to accommodate him. I ask to see the material first, and if it suits me, I give it a go.

I have one for you today, from Doug Karr, a former petty officer second class in the Navy who writes about veterans’ health for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. He describes mesothelioma as an extremely deadly disease that unfortunately affects many veterans.

“This message is extremely important to get out to military personnel and veterans,” Doug emailed me.

Here is his article:

By Doug Karr

U.S. veterans risk their lives every day. However, veterans who served between World War II and the Vietnam War may have endangered their lives in another way. Because of their exposure to asbestos, veterans are at an increased risk for developing mesothelioma.

What is mesothelioma? It is a rare cancer that affects the lining of the internal organs. It is categorized into three different types, depending on the area affected. Pleural mesothelioma develops in the lining of the lungs. This is the most common form of mesothelioma and occurs when asbestos fibers are inhaled. The pleura then become inflamed, scarred and begin to mutate. Mesothelioma also affects the lining of the heart, abdomen and testicles.

Mesothelioma brings a poor prognosis for survival and is often fatal due to not being detected until it has reached late stages. It can have a latency period of 20 to 50 years and symptoms may often be ignored or misdiagnosed. These symptoms may include coughing, chest pain, fatigue, weight loss, decrease in appetite, fever, night sweats, shortness of breath and difficulty swallowing.

If detected early, prognosis for survival may improve. It is important to inform veterans and their families of the risk of mesothelioma if there was a chance that they were exposed to asbestos.

Between the 1940s and ’70s, asbestos was frequently used because of its durability and heat resistance. Asbestos functioned well for insulation, brake linings, flooring and many other products required by the military.

Though all military branches may have been exposed, Navy veterans have an especially high risk for mesothelioma. The construction and repair of ships and submarines used a great amount of asbestos. Certain professions are at higher risk, such as engine mechanics, welders and those who worked in boiler rooms. Naval veterans who lived on the ships and submarines for long time durations have increased risk.

Veterans in other military branches may have been exposed to asbestos as well. Military bases and training camps were often constructed with asbestos. Frequent exposure to tanks and other military vehicles put Army veterans at an increased risk. Veterans in the Air Force were exposed due to the asbestos used in the engines and brake linings of fighter planes. Marines who served on the seas have the same chance of developing mesothelioma as Navy veterans.

Mesothelioma may also be caused indirectly. Second-hand exposure occurs when inhaling asbestos fibers from the clothing, skin and hair of someone who had direct exposure. Secretaries and other office personnel who may have only had second-hand exposure are now developing this deadly disease. Families of the soldiers may also be at increased risk.

There is also concern for veterans who served in Iraq. During the demolition of old buildings, asbestos fibers may have been released into the air.

Treatments for mesothelioma depend on when it is detected. If it’s caught early, surgery, chemotherapy and radiation may be given. Alternative therapies are becoming more popular for palliative care and may be used when allopathic treatments fail.

Resources are available to veterans for prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of mesothelioma. Other legal resources involving financial compensation to veterans and their families may also be obtainable. To find more information on their options, veterans can contact their local Department of Veterans Affairs.

Mesothelioma is a deadly disease that often goes undetected until it is too late. Though a cure might not always be feasible, treatment may be available to help manage symptoms. Early detection and education are the best weapons against this disease.

For more about Doug and his mission, go to http://www.mesothelioma.com/blog/authors/doug/bio.htm





13 responses to “A dangerous disease stalks veterans

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