Guest post by Tiffany Best:
US war veterans may be some of the toughest, strongest men and women that America has to offer. Yet they suffer from chronic illness, just like civilians do. Studies are showing a surge in chronic illnesses like CFS, ME, and mesothelioma among veterans and, unfortunately, these military heroes are not necessarily receiving the attention they deserve..
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and ME affect civilians who have never witnessed traumatic events and have never even so much as left the country as well as veterans who have fought overseas. Some researchers believe that stress may be one of the causes of CFS and ME, though no one cause has been pinpointed.
In fact, studies by the Washington University School of Medicine show that war veterans who were deployed at least once are 40 times more at risk from chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia than those who were never deployed.
Many who participated in the Gulf War in 1991 are experiencing Gulf War Syndrome symptoms, which are proving to be indistinguishable from CFS, and ME symptoms.
Besides, and sometimes in addition to, chronic fatigue and ME, many veterans must cope with chronic cancers, like mesothelioma. Though mesothelioma and CFS are comparable as far as pain and discomfort, unlike CFS, mesothelioma has a known cause: asbestos.
Asbestos is a natural mineral that was used in military construction in the US for decades.
Though not entirely banned, asbestos fibers prove extremely toxic if materials containing
asbestos are damaged or disturbed. If this happens, asbestos fibers are released into the, often in enclosed areas with poor ventilation like boiler rooms and shipbuilding facilities. If the fibers are inhaled or ingested, military workers have an increased chance of contracting mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lung or stomach and is often aggressive. Mesothelioma symptoms include shortness of breath and chest heaviness, often so subtle that they are ignored or misdiagnosed. Symptoms are latent for 20-50 years, meaning that veterans are diagnosed with the cancer after it has metastasized, making life expectancy short and treatment ineffective.
Like CFS and ME patients, many mesothelioma victims live their lives unaware of their illness, but still suffering through symptoms and side effects. Without increased awareness of CFS and mesothelioma symptoms, diagnosis will still be faulty or nonexistent, and both veterans and civilians will be forced to endure pain and fatigue without treatment and with understanding the source of their discomfort.
Awareness can stimulate further research into the causes of CFS and ME and can promote prevention of asbestos usage in military settings.
Instead of simply brushing aside the very real pain of those with CFS, share information to promote compassion and change. Similarly, spreading the news of what asbestos does to veterans is one step towards banning the toxic material entirely and getting our veterans screened for such cancers.