Researchers in the United Kingdom (U.K.) recently published a qualitative study about veterans with mesothelioma. The Military Mesothelioma Experience Study (MiMES) is the first study to report on the experience of U.K. veterans living with mesothelioma.
Researchers conducted interviews with veterans with mesothelioma and their family members. The study recorded how veterans were exposed to asbestos and how they now cope with an asbestos-related illness
Understanding Veterans’ Unique Experiences With Mesothelioma
The Military Mesothelioma Experience Study (MiMES) examined the experiences of 13 male veterans with mesothelioma. The study also included nine family members of veterans with mesothelioma.
Researchers documented several themes among all participants:
- How asbestos exposure occurred
- How aware participants were of asbestos-related diseases
- How participants use military strategies to cope with mesothelioma
- How participants prefer to obtain information and support
Most veterans participating in the study believed they developed mesothelioma from military asbestos exposure.
How Do Veterans Think Asbestos Exposure Occurred?
Many veterans involved in the study believed they came into contact with asbestos during their time in the military. However, most participants did not have jobs working directly with asbestos. Most of them also did not hold occupations considered high risk.
Some veterans said their asbestos exposure resulted from working on ships. Due to its heat-resistant characteristics, asbestos was commonly added to ship insulation and other products.
Other veterans believe they were exposed while living and working in buildings where asbestos was present. In these cases, asbestos exposure occurred while living in the U.K. and in other countries.
–Kevin, MiMES study participant from the British Armed Forces
Researchers found participants often knew asbestos was around. However, they were not aware the mineral was dangerous.
Were Participants Aware of Asbestos-Related Diseases?
Most veterans also said they were not aware of asbestos-related diseases during their service. Instead, participants said they gradually became aware of how dangerous asbestos was over time.
Some study participants said they realized asbestos was a concern after fellow veterans became sick. Several veterans in the study predicted they would be diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness at some point during their lifetime.
Veterans With Mesothelioma Face Unique Challenges
In the study, researchers found veterans face unique challenges regarding mesothelioma care. The study found all participants faced similar issues during diagnosis and treatment.
Participants said they valued the expertise and support they received from mesothelioma specialists. Healthcare providers were helpful in navigating the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS).
When it came to receiving medical care, veterans and their families said they preferred:
- Clear and honest delivery of information
- Direct communication
- Sensitivity about their military service
Participants said sensitive delivery of information was important because asbestos exposure may have occurred during combat. Researchers said revisiting these memories could cause psychological distress.
How Veterans Lean on Military Experience to Cope With Mesothelioma
The study concluded participants cope with their mesothelioma diagnoses differently than civilians. Participants said they leaned on their military training and experience to be action-focused against the disease.
-Callum, MiMES study participant from the Royal Air Force (RAF)
Most participants took a problem-solving approach to their diagnosis. Veterans and their loved ones made treatment decisions quickly and efficiently.
According to the study, military experience provided veterans with strength and resilience to manage their disease. The study provided valuable insight into how U.K. veterans and veterans around the world face a mesothelioma diagnosis.
In the United States, veterans are faced with similar challenges. Such as with the U.K. veterans, they lean on inner resources to confront their cancer diagnosis.
Medical and financial resources are also available to veterans in the U.S. through the Veteran’s Affairs (VA) system. By filing a VA claim, veterans may be eligible to receive compensation to help pay for treatment.