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Veterans With Mesothelioma Should Get Counsel About Compensation, Study Says

Veterans who served in many occupations in the military including boiler room work, shipyard work, insulation work, demolition and construction may have breathed asbestos fibers, a known cause of cancer. Malignant pleural mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer that produces tumors in the lining of the lungs and is a signature disease of mesothelioma.

But veterans are rarely advised during treatment of the cause of malignant pleural mesothelioma or the potential to obtain compensation for the harmed caused by asbestos manufacturers, according to a study in The American Journal of Medical Sciences. Mesothelioma is most commonly caused by occupational exposure to asbestos.

The 2011 study, conducted by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System and Stanford University,  reviewed the charts of 16 patients who had been diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma. The researchers found documented occupational exposure to mesothelioma in 75 percent of the patients while two patients were presumed to have had bystander exposure. Workers who work around asbestos may bring the dust home on their clothes or hair and expose family members to asbestos dust.

Among the 16 veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma, the researchers found documentation of patient counseling about the cause of mesothelioma and opportunities for compensation in only one of the patient files.

The authors concluded that Veterans Affairs physicians may be missing opportunities to provide newly diagnosed patients beneficial information about their legal options and the potential of compensation.

Diseases caused by asbestos exposure take decades to develop. Most cases of asbestos-related lung cancer or asbestosis, a scarring of the lung, occur 15 years or more after the initial exposure. The time between exposure to asbestos and development of mesothelioma is 20 to 50 years. Most cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed 30 years or more after exposure.

Approximately, 2,500 to 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year in the United States. Most are men and many are veterans who were exposed during their years of military service. Mesothelioma is incurable, but treatments are available to control the disease, particularly if it is diagnosed before it becomes advanced.

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Last Modified: January 4, 2019

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