Mesothelioma and Asbestos Disease in the Navy

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The Law Offices of Wallace & Graham is a North Carolina law firm with vast experience representing victims of asbestos-related illnesses. We have fought and won cases throughout the United States, including a significant number of cases on behalf of U.S. Navy veterans who were exposed during their military service.

Our No. 1 priority is proper diagnosis and treatment to halt the spread of asbestos cancers or provide victims relief from disabling lung disease. If your family member has symptoms and served in the Navy, Coast Guard or Merchant Marine, contact us for a free consultation to learn your rights.

What Is Asbestos?

From the 1920s well into the 1980s, asbestos was widely used in industry and construction for its fire-retardant, heat insulation and anti-corrosion qualities. This naturally occurring mineral forms as long, crystalline fibers. It was commonly used in shipbuilding, in the manufacture of ships' boilers and turbines, and in the valves, pumps and pipes spanning every part of Navy ships.

What Is Mesothelioma?

When asbestos is inhaled, the tiny fibers embed in the lungs and slowly wind their way to surrounding tissues. After a long latency period — typically 25 to 40 years after exposure — the person may develop cancerous tumors. Asbestos is the only proven cause of mesothelioma, and virtually any exposure can result in mesothelioma tumors decades later.

  • Most tumors form in the pleura, the thin, protective membrane encasing the lungs. Pleural mesothelioma accounts for about 75 percent of cases.
  • About 15 percent of tumors form in the peritoneum, a protective sac around the abdominal organs. Peritoneal mesothelioma is about 15 percent of cases.
  • Less commonly, mesothelioma initiates in the pericardium (heart lining) or in a pouch of the peritoneum encasing the testicles.

Medical intervention can slow the cancer and relieve symptoms. But the disease is eventually fatal. Some victims live mere months if the disease goes undiagnosed until late stages. Even with early detection and aggressive treatment, few live beyond five years.

What Is Asbestosis?

Asbestosis is a disabling lung disease usually resulting from heavy, prolonged exposure to asbestos. The sharp fibers scratch and inflame the airways of the lungs. The body's immune reaction to the foreign particles creates fibrous scarring, or fibrosis. The cumulative effect of thousands of tiny scars (a) damages the lung's ability to distribute oxygen to the blood and (b) chokes the bronchial passages. Victims become fatigued from any exertion, and breathing becomes labored or painful.

Asbestosis is progressive and irreversible. It can lead to lung collapse or pulmonary failure and death. There is no cure, other than a lung transplant or pneumonectomy (removal of all or part of the diseased lung). Other treatments can ease breathing and reduce the pain.

Other Asbestos Diseases

— Lung cancer can result from asbestos exposure; the risk is greatly magnified if the person is/was also a smoker.
— Pleural plaques, a fibrosis of the pleura, cause chest pain and difficulty breathing. They are commonly a marker for mesothelioma.
— Pleural effusion, a leaking of fluid into the chest cavity, is also debilitating. It is usually (but not always) an indicator of mesothelioma.
— More rarely, cancers of the stomach, intestines or colon/rectum result from swallowed asbestos fibers.

Symptoms of Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is often undiagnosed until has spread to other parts of the body. Unfortunately, the early symptoms are similar to many other illnesses:

  • Shortness of breath and easy fatigue
  • Forgetfulness or disorientation
  • Chest pain or painful breaths
  • Abdominal pain, swelling or lumps
  • Heart arrhythmia
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Irregular or painful bowel movements

Nationwide Mesothelioma and Asbestosis Lawyers

If you know or suspect you were exposed to asbestos in the past, see your family physician or call the attorneys at The Law Offices of Wallace & Graham at 888-698-9975. We can steer clients to lung and cancer specialists who are qualified to diagnose and treat asbestos disease.