Military veterans at high risk for mesothelioma

21 Jun 2017 by under News

KoreanWar recover Seoul 100x100 Military veterans at high risk for mesothelioma While U.S. military veterans from all wars and service branches account for just 8 percent of the U.S. population, they comprise 30 percent of all known mesothelioma deaths that have occurred in the United States, according to Military.com.

Why is the mesothelioma diagnosis rate so high for veterans? Asbestos, a group of silicate minerals that is now known to be a carcinogen, was once thought to be the ideal building material for its resistance to heat, and its flexibility. It was used extensively in military barracks and bases. According to Mesothelioma Research News, it was also used in building warships, planes and automobiles, “meaning that almost all members of the military would have been exposed to asbestos in one way or another during their time of service.”

Veterans who served between 1940 and 1980 are thought to be most at risk, though those who served later, including in Afghanistan or Iraq, may have also encountered the carcinogen in old buildings that still contain it.

Mesothelioma, a deadly cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, heart or abdomen, has a long latency period, taking anywhere from 20 to 50 years for patients to develop symptoms. Therefore, veterans who served during the Vietnam and Korean wars in the 1950s and 1960s are the ones being treated for asbestos today.

A study released at the end of 2016  centered on the ’s Healthcare System, which created a national mesothelioma telephone consulting service that allowed veterans who believed they had mesothelioma timely access to experts in Boston. The study found doctors in Boston, who usually had more experience with mesothelioma than local physicians, changed the treatment regimens of 71 percent of patients to improve patient outcomes.

As with any patient, access to surgeons with experience treating mesothelioma is critical to veteran care.

 

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