Positive news emerged last week regarding the future of mesothelioma treatment for military veterans.
The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is requesting a $75 million increase for cancer treatment and research. This potential bump in funding, which was reported by the website Military.com, would help the VA provide specialized treatment to veterans with all forms of cancer.
Mesothelioma is distinct from other types of cancer. A specialized approach could significantly help the long-term survival chances of veterans with mesothelioma.
“A more specialized approach may actually allow for more VA mesothelioma treatment centers,” said Carl Jewett, a retired 24-year Navy veteran and accredited VA claims agent. “This can make it easier for veterans to obtain the specialized treatment they need closer to home.”
Carl regularly helps veterans with mesothelioma find high-quality treatment. If you’re a military veteran with this disease, you can reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.
VA Hospitals With Mesothelioma Treatment
Each state has VA hospitals, but only a few have mesothelioma programs. The well-known and reputable VA mesothelioma programs are located at medical centers in: Los Angeles, California; Boston, Massachusetts; and Houston, Texas.
Most veterans with mesothelioma don’t live near any of these three hospitals. Attempting to travel can lead to frustrating obstacles for patients.
“In order to get the VA to pay for that travel, the veteran must first get a referral from their local VA hospital, a process that can take several weeks,” Carl explained. “This is time that patients simply can’t afford when dealing with an aggressive form of cancer like mesothelioma.”
One reason for so few VA hospitals with mesothelioma programs? The cancer is rare, with only around 3,000 Americans diagnosed each year. By comparison, there were approximately 46,000 reported cases in 2010 of veterans with any cancer.
However, military veterans comprise between one-third and half of all mesothelioma patients.
Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos, which is a naturally forming mineral used in commercial products for decades. The U.S. military relied on asbestos to build ships, barracks, aircraft and other vessels, which is why mesothelioma is so prevalent among veterans.
The VA requested a $243 billion budget, according to Military.com’s report. The $75 million expansion for cancer treatment would help the VA provide care “as close to the patient’s residence as possible.”
Could this goal mean the VA will implement mesothelioma programs in more of its medical centers? One can hope.
“Many patients are too sick to fly or even drive several hours to see a specialist,” Carl said. “More mesothelioma treatment programs through the VA could make specialized treatment available to a great number of veterans who simply cannot travel long distances to seek the treatment they need.”
Personalizing Treatment for Veterans With Mesothelioma
The VA’s request for increased cancer funding may also help advance its mesothelioma treatment practices.
Military.com also said the additional funding would be used in the VA’s National Precision Oncology Program. This initiative “moves away from one-size-fits-all cancer treatments” and uses a more modern approach, focusing on each patient’s individual cancer and the DNA mutations that occur.
Personalized treatment is the focus of many mesothelioma clinical trials. The current standard for mesothelioma treatment involves a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Some researchers promote using immunotherapy, virotherapy and gene therapy.
One clinical trial hopes to personalize vaccines for “literally one person in the entire world.” That’s an example of the direction that mesothelioma treatment is headed, and the VA seems to be catching up.
Mesothelioma does not have the exact same qualities as breast cancer, colon cancer or prostate cancer. Really, you can name any other cancer and mesothelioma is in some way different from it.
Mesothelioma almost always forms in the thin lining near either the lungs or abdomen. The disease is comprised of microscopic tumors that replicate and spread through the body at a rapid pace — faster than most other types of cancer.
The disease also forms between 20 and 50 years after exposure to asbestos. Thus, early detection is challenging — and survival rates are discouraging. All of these unique-to-mesothelioma characteristics are why the National Precision Oncology Program is a positive step for VA cancer treatment.
They’re also reasons why the VA needs the additional $75 million in funding. Hopefully, the VA gets approval for its request and can better serve veterans with mesothelioma.
Show Sources & Author
- Proposed VA Budget Would Increase Funding for Cancer Treatment. Military.com. Retrieved from:
https://www.military.com/daily-news/2020/02/24/proposed-va-budget-would-increase-funding-cancer-treatment.html. Accessed: 02/27/2020.
- Cancer Incidence among Patients of the United States Veterans Affairs (VA) Healthcare System: 2010 Update. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5650119/. Accessed: 02/27/2020.