You may be surprised to learn that doctors don’t automatically screen for asbestos-related illnesses. They can easily view symptoms such as general fatigue or a lingering cough as related to something far less serious than mesothelioma or another illness linked to asbestos exposure. It is critically important that you tell your doctor if you served in the military or worked as a machinist, shipbuilder, construction worker, or any of a number of other professions known to put workers at high risk for asbestos exposure. You’ll find a list of high-risk jobs here .
Asbestos-Related Diseases Early Warning Signs
There are 3 diseases that we know for certain are tied to exposure to asbestos: lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma—an aggressive cancer that can attack the lining surrounding the lungs and other areas in the body. The signs and symptoms of these diseases are generally not the type that would initially cause alarm. For example, some common symptoms of mesothelioma are:
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in the chest or abdomen
Less common symptoms include:
- Weight loss
- Trouble swallowing
- Lingering cough and/or coughing up blood
- Lumps under skin in chest or abdomen
The presence of any of these symptoms in no way means you have mesothelioma. Such health issues are also linked to many other, less serious diseases. However, it is important to see a doctor and explain that you may have once been exposed to asbestos. The doctor will then do a more comprehensive physical exam, along with more extensive blood work than would normally be done in a standard medical examination.
Alerting Veterans to the Dangers of Asbestos Exposure
Sokolove Law has sponsored the VFW National Convention for the past 5 years in order to reach out to veterans directly and alert them that their health may be at risk. Unfortunately, 33% of those diagnosed with mesothelioma each year are veterans. Those veterans who served on ships in the U.S. Navy or U.S. Coast Guard are particularly at risk, as asbestos was a common additive in many construction materials used in shipbuilding.
I had the opportunity to speak to hundreds of veterans at the VFW National Convention, and I told them I hope they will never need our services. We sponsor the convention because we want to educate people, and because we know that when mesothelioma is diagnosed in its earlier stages there are more treatment options available. Because mesothelioma symptoms can initially seem like a common cold or other less serious illness, it is not uncommon for individuals to delay seeking medical help. With a disease like mesothelioma, the more proactive you are in getting treatment, the more options you will have to fight it. I’ve seen people wait and say “Well, it’s just a cough” rather than go to the doctor to have it checked out. We all must be proactive when it comes to fighting mesothelioma, and that starts first and foremost with our own personal health. Please, do not delay.