Asbestos Lung Cancer

Exposure to asbestos has been linked to a greater likelihood of developing lung cancer, and U.S. veterans that served between the 1930s and 1980s may be at risk. The U.S. military used asbestos for decades, as asbestos corporations concealed its risk. Veterans with asbestos-related lung cancer may qualify for military benefits and other forms of compensation.

What Veterans With Mesothelioma Need To Know About Coronavirus

What Is Asbestos-Related Lung Cancer?

Lung cancer is the second most common type of cancer, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). While it has many possible causes (notably smoking cigarettes), thousands of people develop lung cancer every year because of asbestos exposure.

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Video Summary: In this video, VA-accredited attorney Eric Hall explains why U.S. veterans are at risk of asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma. He also breaks down how affected veterans can access military benefits and medical treatment. Call (877) 450-8973 to get started. View Transcript

Veterans who served in the military between the 1930s and the 1980s were likely exposed to asbestos while they were on active duty. Usually, if you've developed an asbestos-related disease, you developed that disease because you had an excessive amount of exposure to asbestos.

If a veteran believes they were exposed to asbestos while serving in the military, we encourage them to call the Mesothelioma Veterans Center so that we can work together to help them file for VA benefits.

The VA will recognize any asbestos-related disease as long as your asbestos exposure happened while you were on active duty in the military.

In addition to VA benefits, the Mesothelioma Veterans Center can connect veterans with world-renowned physicians and nurses on staff that can answer any of your treatment questions. We encourage veterans to call and find out how we can help them.

Asbestos is a highly durable mineral that was once used in many products like construction materials and vehicle parts. Today, it is a known carcinogen (cancer-causing material), but the dangers of asbestos were hidden for decades by corporations who made asbestos products.

Did you know?

Individuals who develop asbestos lung cancer can pursue financial compensation from companies that hid the dangers of their products.

Compensation can help pay for lung cancer treatments — and keep your family financially stable for years to come. Further, if you served in the Armed Forces, you may qualify for veterans benefits if your exposure occurred during your military career.

Veterans and Asbestos Lung Cancer Risk

U.S. veterans have a higher-than-average risk of asbestos lung cancer, as the military used asbestos for decades in bases, vehicles, ships, and other products. Asbestos was favored by the military because it was cheap, flame-resistant, and thought to be safe.

Today, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recognizes the extreme dangers posed by asbestos exposure. Veterans with lung cancer or other asbestos-related diseases may qualify for many VA benefits, ranging from monthly payouts to medical care.

Our free veterans packet offers more information about benefits and compensation for asbestos lung cancer.

How Does Asbestos Cause Lung Cancer?

If asbestos-based products are damaged or wear out, they release tiny fibers into the air. Those nearby can inhale the fibers into their lungs. Asbestos fibers that are lodged in the lungs cannot be removed by the human body. Instead, the fibers burrow into the lung tissue and damage the cells. This can eventually turn healthy cells into cancerous ones.

It often takes 20-50 years for asbestos to trigger the growth of cancerous tumors.

Those with a long history of asbestos exposure, such as those who served as military shipyard workers or boiler tenders, have the greatest risk of getting sick. These service members worked around this deadly material every day for months or even years.

Veterans also have an increased risk of asbestos lung cancer if they smoke or smoked in the past. A recent study from the international Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health suggested that asbestos amplifies the lung damage caused by smoking cigarettes.

“Many studies have shown that the combination of tobacco smoking and asbestos exposure is particularly hazardous. However, there is also evidence that quitting smoking reduces the risk of lung cancer among asbestos-exposed workers.”

– National Cancer Institute (NCI)

Lung Cancer vs Mesothelioma

Asbestos exposure doesn’t always cause lung cancer — there are a number of asbestos-related diseases someone can be diagnosed with. One of the most notable is malignant mesothelioma.

Unlike lung cancer, malignant mesothelioma tumors can develop in the lining of the lungs (pleura), abdomen (peritoneum), testes (tunica vaginalis), or heart (pericardium). Mesothelioma tumors do not start in the lungs themselves.

Also unlike lung cancer, asbestos exposure is the only known risk factor linked to mesothelioma. Smoking is not known to increase the risks of getting mesothelioma.

However, both asbestos-related lung cancer and mesothelioma can be deadly without treatment. If you or a loved one has possible symptoms of these cancers, consult your doctor as soon as possible.

Whether you have lung cancer or mesothelioma, our team is here to help. Contact us today to learn about treatment options, legal options, and VA benefits.

Diagnosing Lung Cancer Caused by Asbestos

To diagnose lung cancer, your doctor will first gather basic health information about you and your symptoms. From there, they will perform imaging scans of your chest cavity and lungs to look for cancerous tumors.

Imaging scans used to help diagnose lung cancer include chest X-rays, CT scans, MRI scans, and PET scans.

These imaging scans can also identify other pleural diseases — such as pleural plaques or pleural thickening (a painful inflammation of the lung lining) — that may mean someone has been exposed to asbestos.

If a doctor finds a potentially cancerous tumor using these tests, they’ll likely perform a biopsy, which involves extracting a fluid or tissue sample. A biopsy is the only way to confirm that someone has lung cancer.

Doctors often use a bronchoscopy to take a biopsy. During this procedure, doctors insert a small tube down the throat and into the lungs where a tiny sample is then removed. The patient is under anesthesia during this time. Doctors then send the sample off to a lab to have it analyzed.

Prognosis for Asbestos Lung Cancer

If a biopsy confirms the presence of lung cancer, doctors can then offer a prognosis, which is the expected outcome of a disease. Lung cancer has a generally poor prognosis.

A study published by Cancer Science found that patients with asbestos lung cancer had an average survival time of 17.4 months. 57% of patients were still alive 1 year after diagnosis, and 25% were alive after 5 years.

These statistics weren’t much different from those with non-asbestos or general lung cancer. The same study reported that general lung cancer patients lived for 19.2 months on average. While more of these patients were alive a year after diagnosis (70%), less were alive 5 years later (24.5%).

Rough estimates show that 130,000 to 160,000 people died of asbestos-related lung cancer over a 15-year period, according to data analyzed by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

Thankfully, a prognosis is not set in stone. With proper health care and treatments, patients may be able to outlive an initially poor prognosis.

Lung Cancer Symptoms

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Weight Loss
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Chronic Cough
A blue icon of a person breathing (meant to illustrate difficulty breathing)
Shortness of Breath
an elder male clutches his chest

According to the American Lung Association (ALA), the symptoms of lung cancer can vary with each patient. Those who experience any of the following may be suffering from lung cancer.

Symptoms of lung cancer may include:

  • Appetite loss
  • Chronic cough
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Pleural effusion (buildup of fluid in the lung lining)
  • Shortness of breath

Many asbestos-related diseases share similar symptoms, but lung cancer is generally more harmful than benign (non-cancerous) conditions. Without a prompt diagnosis and treatment, lung cancer can quickly spread and become fatal.

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Treatment for Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is not curable, but treatments may help extend your lifespan. In many cases, lung cancer patients have achieved long-term remission in which the cancer is not spreading or causing symptoms.

Notable lung cancer treatment options includes:

  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancerous cells.
  • Radiation therapy: Doctors use high-energy X-rays to shrink tumors.
  • Surgery: Doctors remove cancerous tumors and some or all of the affected lung, according to the ALA.
  • Targeted therapy: The patient is given medications to prevent cancer cells from spreading.
  • Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy uses drugs to stimulate the body's immune system to kill cancerous cells.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also notes that clinical trials can help lung cancer patients in some cases. Through a clinical trial, patients may be able to access new treatments currently being studied.

U.S. veterans may be able to access free or low-cost lung cancer treatments through the VA Health Care System.

See if you can file for VA benefits to pursue treatments and compensation.


Asbestos Lung Cancer Compensation & VA Benefits

For U.S. veterans suffering from asbestos lung cancer, help is available. Affected veterans can pursue medical care, military benefits, and other forms of financial compensation.
Veterans Chest Medal

VA Benefits

VA benefits allow eligible veterans with asbestos-related lung cancer to receive monthly compensation to help cover caregiving expenses and other bills. Medical treatment is also available through the VA Health Care System. The VA has world-class doctors and treatment centers ready to help veterans with lung cancer.

Finally, families can pursue survivor benefits if a veteran passed away from lung cancer. These benefits can ensure a veteran's loved ones stay financially secure.

VA benefits are also available for other asbestos-related diseases. For example, the VA granted benefits to a veteran with lung cancer, asbestosis (a noncancerous lung disease that impairs breathing), and pleural plaques (a harmless buildup of protein in the lung lining).

File for VA benefits today with help from U.S. veteran and VA-accredited attorney Eric Hall.


Legal Claims

Through an asbestos lung cancer claim or lawsuit, veterans may be able to receive more compensation than they would from VA benefits alone.

Legal claims allow veterans to get compensation from the makers of asbestos-based products. No legal action is taken against any branch of the U.S. military.

See if you can file a legal claim and pursue compensation for asbestos lung cancer today.

two american dollar bills

Asbestos Trust Funds

Many makers of asbestos-based products filed for bankruptcy to avoid costly lawsuits. In response, the U.S. government forced these companies to set aside money in asbestos trust funds for current and future victims of asbestos diseases.

Today, U.S. veterans with asbestos lung cancer may be able to file a trust fund claim and receive compensation. Asbestos trust funds currently contain an estimated $30 billion.

Can you survive asbestos lung cancer?

Yes. It may be possible to achieve long-term survival, even if a veteran develops lung cancer after being exposed to asbestos.

The VA’s official blog reported on a U.S. Navy veteran who developed lung cancer after smoking for decades and being exposed to asbestos while he served. As of 2021, this veteran was still alive 15 years after his diagnosis.

Getting diagnosed and treated before your cancer has spread are key steps to help you live longer with asbestos lung cancer.

What types of lung cancer can asbestos cause?

Asbestos can cause any type of lung cancer. This includes cases of small cell lung cancer and types of non-small cell lung cancers, like adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

Thankfully, treatments are available for any type of asbestos-related lung cancer.

Can I pursue legal action if I developed asbestos lung cancer?

It may be possible to pursue legal action — such as an asbestos lung cancer lawsuit or trust fund claim — after a diagnosis. Contact our team today to learn if you may qualify for legal aid.

How Veterans With Mesothelioma Can Stay Safe From COVID-19

Next Steps for Veterans With Asbestos Lung Cancer

U.S. veterans never deserved to develop lung cancer due to asbestos exposure. Sadly, the deadly health effects of asbestos were hidden from these brave service members and the U.S. military.

If you or a loved one suffers from asbestos-related lung cancer after military service, you can pursue financial aid and medical benefits. Both of these can help you adjust to life after a diagnosis and start the healing process.

The Mesothelioma Veterans Center knows the sacrifices that veterans made and stands prepared to help those who need it. Get a free veterans packet to see how our team can help you pursue VA benefits and compensation.

Veterans Support Team
Christopher Dryfoos PhotoWritten by:

Contributing Author

Christopher Dryfoos is a journalist and member of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA). As the grandson of the U.S. Navy’s first forensic pathologist, he aims to help veterans with mesothelioma access needed care.

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