Mesothelioma Navy Settlements
Asbestos was used abundantly on Navy vessels and in shipyards before its health hazards were widely known. Sailors or civilians who worked around asbestos had no idea that they were exposed to toxic fibers capable of causing lethal diseases like mesothelioma and lung cancer.
All U.S. military branches used asbestos, but none so much as the Navy. That’s why Navy veterans are the servicemembers most frequently diagnosed with mesothelioma every year.
Asbestos manufacturing companies knew of the dangers of asbestos ― but they didn’t tell anyone. By the time the Navy banned asbestos in 1975, countless numbers of Navy veterans had already been exposed to the dangerous material. Even then, asbestos exposure kept happening into the early 1980s as Navy ships were repaired or decommissioned.
Financial compensation is available to Navy veterans who suffer from mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Asbestos companies failed to warn the military of the dangers of asbestos products. Those companies can and should be held accountable for their negligence.
Contact us today to learn about your legal right to compensation.
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Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive form of cancer. The only known cause of mesothelioma is asbestos exposure. Asbestos was used extensively in Navy shipbuilding dating as far back as World War II. But because of the disease’s long latency period (15 to 60 years), many Navy veterans are not diagnosed with mesothelioma until decades after service.
Asbestos releases invisible fibers into the air when it is damaged or disturbed. If inhaled or ingested, those fibers can dig into the lining of the delicate tissues surrounding the lungs, abdomen, heart or testicles. Over time, inflammation and scarring can cause cells to become cancerous, resulting in deadly diseases like mesothelioma and lung cancer.
Asbestos was used on a wide variety of equipment on Navy ships, including pumps, valves, turbines, boilers, pipes and electrical equipment. Even in areas where asbestos was not widely used, fibers could still have migrated there on a Navy servicemember’s clothing or shoes.
Only 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma are identified each year. One-third of those victims are military veterans. Anyone who worked on Navy ships or in shipyards should make sure that their history of asbestos exposure is documented on their medical records so that mesothelioma is not overlooked as a potential diagnosis.
There are four types of mesothelioma. The location of the primary tumor indicates the type of mesothelioma that a Navy veteran has. The types of the asbestos cancer include:
- Pleural mesothelioma: Malignant pleural mesothelioma is cancer in the thin lining of the lungs called the pleura. It develops after asbestos fibers are inhaled and lodged in the chest cavity. It is the most common form of asbestos cancer among Navy veterans.
- Peritoneal mesothelioma: Some naval personnel develop mesothelioma in the tissues surrounding the abdomen called the peritoneum. Peritoneal mesothelioma cases make up anywhere from 20 to 33 percent of all mesothelioma cases.
- Pericardial mesothelioma: Rarely, mesothelioma tumors develop in the sac around the heart called the pericardium. Pericardial mesothelioma accounts for 1 percent of all mesothelioma cases and is often not detected until Navy veterans are in the late stages of the disease.
- Testicular mesothelioma: Cancer in the membrane covering the testes is the rarest form of mesothelioma.
It is possible for some mesothelioma tumors to be benign (noncancerous). Benign mesothelioma tumors are not usually linked to asbestos exposure. They also differ from malignant (cancerous) mesothelioma tumors because they are slow-growing and do not spread. By contrast, malignant mesothelioma cells replicate rapidly and are quick to invade healthy tissues.
Navy veterans should know that there is no safe level of asbestos exposure. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), “there is no level of asbestos exposure below which clinical effects do not occur.” The length of Navy service nor the location served plays any role in determining who develops mesothelioma.
In fact, many Navy veterans who were exposed to asbestos aboard naval vessels are never diagnosed with mesothelioma or any asbestos-related illnesses. No one knows what makes the difference. However, researchers suspect that each individual’s unique health history and genetics may play a role.
The prognosis for Navy veterans with malignant mesothelioma is grave because each type of the disease produces subtle and generalized symptoms. As a result, many people cannot receive the most aggressive treatments.
Pleural mesothelioma symptoms are often mistaken for more common respiratory infections such as bronchitis, asthma, pneumonia or emphysema. Navy veterans should see a doctor immediately if they show signs of pleural mesothelioma such as:
- Pleural effusion (fluid surrounding the lungs)
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Unexplained weight loss
Peritoneal mesothelioma may be misdiagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and other abdominal cancers. Shipyard workers and Navy veterans may experience the following symptoms:
- Ascites (fluid build-up in the abdominal cavity)
- Abdominal pain or swelling
- Weight loss
- Bowel problems
Pericardial mesothelioma shares symptoms with congestive heart failure and other cardiovascular conditions. Because it is so rare, pericardial mesothelioma may not be diagnosed in patients unless there is a postmortem examination. Symptoms include:
- Pericardial effusion (excess fluid in the pericardium)
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pain
- Night sweats
- Heart palpitations
- Heart murmurs
Testicular mesothelioma is so rare that experts cannot agree on definitive symptoms. It is usually mistaken for an inguinal hernia. Navy veterans should consider getting an evaluation for testicular mesothelioma if they develop symptoms such as:
- Testicular swelling
- Fluid in the scrotum
- A mass in the testicle
No matter where the symptoms of mesothelioma appear, it is critical to get a prompt and accurate diagnosis to achieve the best possible outcome.
A Navy veteran who is diagnosed with mesothelioma has another tough battle to fight. While there is no cure for mesothelioma, there are several treatment options that can reduce pain and extend a patient’s life expectancy. However, the possibilities become more limited as the disease progresses.
Navy veterans could be candidates for surgery. Surgery can be a curative or palliative treatment option for patients with mesothelioma. Doctors may suggest any of the following procedures:
- Extrapleural pneumonectomy: Surgeons remove the affected lung, part of the pericardial sac, part of the diagphragm and the tissues lining the chest wall.
- Pleurectomy decortication (P/D): The pleura surrounding the lungs and any visible tumors in the chest cavity are removed.
- Cytoreduction or debulking surgery: Diseased tissue in the peritoneal and abdominal area is removed. In some cases, heated chemotherapy drugs are inserted into the abdomen as well.
- Pericardiectomy: Doctors remove all or a portion of the pericardium around the heart.
- Radical inguinal orchiectomy: The diseased testicle and the entire spermatic chord are removed.
Chemotherapy is another option. Doctors may prescribe a variety of drugs and chemicals to attack and kill mesothelioma cells. Chemotherapy may be used before surgery to shrink the tumor or post-operatively to kill any remaining cancer cells.
Radiation therapy uses high energy X-rays or particles to attack cancer cells. Ionizing radiation is most effective at shrinking or preventing growth of mesothelioma tumors. Radiation therapy may be used in combination with other therapies or as part of a palliative care plan for Navy veterans with mesothelioma.
Palliative care focuses on improving a patient’s quality of life and easing pain during any stage of mesothelioma. Doctors may perform procedures to remove fluid build-up to make breathing, eating and moving more comfortable.
Clinical trials are research studies that explore new methods for treating mesothelioma. Navy veterans should ask their doctors if they are eligible to participate in any current or upcoming trials.
The U.S. Navy operates a medical monitoring program for military servicemembers with a history of occupational exposure to asbestos. The goal of the Asbestos Medical Surveillance Program (AMSP) is to identify signs of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases quickly so that Navy personnel can get immediate treatment.
The AMSP keeps records of some Navy servicemembers who were exposed to asbestos. Eligibility to enroll in the program depends on whether the sailor or civilian meets certain exposure requirements. Those who qualify receive regular medical exams and chest X-rays to look for any signs of pleural mesothelioma or other asbestos illnesses.
AMSP doctors also use spirometry to check how well the servicemember’s lungs are working. Spirometry is a test that measures how much air patients can inhale and exhale. It also assesses how quickly a patient can exhale. Physicians can also use spirometry to evaluate how well a patient is responding to treatments for chronic lung conditions like COPD.
Doctors can identify Navy servicemembers at the greatest risk of developing asbestos-related diseases by reviewing their answers to a questionnaire and conducting a physical exam. Specially trained physicians, called B readers, review the X-rays.
All of the testing is kept on file for future reference. That gives doctors the best chance of catching any new or worsening symptoms of mesothelioma or other conditions caused by asbestos exposure.
Although Navy servicemembers make up the majority of all AMSP enrollees, the program also extends to members of the U.S. Army, Air Force or Coast Guard.
Early detection is key to extending the life expectancy for people with mesothelioma. Statistics show that patients generally live 12 to 21 months after diagnosis. Less than 10 percent of mesothelioma victims will survive for five years.
However, patients who are caught in the earliest stages of mesothelioma have the best prognoses. At Stage 1 or Stage 2, mesothelioma tumors are relatively localized and not spread throughout the body. Though patients in those stages are still troubled by painful symptoms, they are generally more robust in health and can withstand more invasive treatments if necessary.
The stage of the disease is very important in predicting life expectancies for Navy veterans with mesothelioma, but it is not the only factor. Doctors also look at the servicemember’s:
- Age: Younger patients typically fare better than older ones.
- Sex: Though they make up a much lower percentage of mesothelioma cases, women generally live longer than men.
- Overall health: A person’s own health history may increase the likelihood of a longer or shorter survival time.
- Location of the cancer: Pleural mesothelioma is the most common form of the disease and often the most treatable.
- Cell type: Mesothelioma tumors can be made up of epithelioid, sarcomatoid or biphasic cells. Epithelial cells are far more responsive to treatment. Sarcomatoid cells spread quickly and are resistant to treatment. Biphasic cells are made up of epithelioid and sarcomatoid cells. The ratio of epithelial cells to sarcomatoid cells determines how well a patient will respond to treatment. The more epithelial cells, the better.
- Wishes and intentions: The average age of a pleural mesothelioma patient at the time of diagnosis is 72. Some shipyard workers and Navy veterans do not want to contend with the harsh side effects of traditional mesothelioma treatment plans. Instead, they choose palliative care to enjoy their remaining time with loved ones without waging a war against mesothelioma.
Navy veterans with mesothelioma may collect compensation through a legal claim and/or VA benefits. Working with a skilled mesothelioma attorney, servicemembers can learn about their legal rights and the best path to financial relief.
An experienced asbestos lawyer can review a Navy veteran’s employment history and service record to identify who is responsible for his or her exposure to asbestos. Veterans do not sue the Navy or the government. Legal action is brought against the company or companies that supplied asbestos products to the military without disclosing the public health risks.
Depending on the specifics of the case, Navy veterans may be eligible to obtain compensation from:
- Asbestos trust funds: Many companies that went bankrupt were required to establish asbestos trust funds to ensure that victims who develop mesothelioma or other asbestos-related illnesses receive compensation for their losses.
- Navy settlements and lawsuits: A knowledgeable mesothelioma attorney can inform veterans whether they have legal grounds to file personal injury lawsuits against asbestos manufacturers. Many companies reach settlements with Navy veterans rather than pay for a lengthy trial with an uncertain outcome. Navy settlements can often be reached in as little as 30 days.
- VA benefits: If you are a Navy veteran suffering from an asbestos disease like mesothelioma, you may be entitled to monthly VA disability benefit payments. It’s important to talk with a lawyer before trying to apply for benefits alone. The process can be complex, with tight deadlines and strict criteria that must be met in order for a VA benefits claim to be approved.
Planning for the future after a mesothelioma diagnosis is not a battle that you have to fight alone. We can help.
To learn more about your rights to mesothelioma compensation, contact us today. Our top-rated mesothelioma lawyers can outline your legal options in a free consultation. Then they can build a strong claim to secure a better financial future for you and your family.