Find common veterans health and medical topics starting with the letter C that are related to military service history. The guide covers health topics from A to Z. Read on for more information about COPD, Cancer, and other medical issues that begin with “C”.
This is an ongoing series and more veterans health topics and letters are coming soon.
Note: What follows should not be taken as medical advice and is not intended as a diagnosis. This page is general information related to common veterans conditions and should not replace advice from your health care provider.
Contaminated Camp Lejeune Water Supplies
From 1950, those stationed at the Marine Corps base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina were potentially exposed to harmful chemicals via the base water supply system, including industrial solvents, benzene, and others.
The official Department of Veterans Affairs page addressing this specific issue states that those affected were likely assigned to Camp Lejeune between the 1950s and 1980s, but the actual duration of the contamination is debated.
For purposes of VA compensation and healthcare claims, the VA official site states, “VA provides cost-free health care for certain conditions to Veterans who served at least 30 days of active duty at Camp Lejeune from January 1, 1957 through December 31, 1987.” The list of medical issues associated with serving due to the contaminated water includes but may not be limited to the following:
- Esophageal cancer
- Hepatic steatosis
- Breast cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Lung cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Renal toxicity
- Female infertility
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Myelodysplastic syndromes
- Neurobehavioral effects
Cardiovascular disease involves the circulatory system including the heart, veins, and arteries. Common health conditions defined as cardiovascular disease include heart attacks, stroke, blocked arteries, high blood pressure, and much more.
Cardiovascular disease may be caused by lifestyle, heredity issues, certain medication and/or recreational substances, or combinations of all the above. Cardiovascular disease is described as the number one cause of death for Americans, and coronary artery disease (a narrowing or blocking of blood vessels that lead to the heart) as one of the most common specific conditions.
The Department of Veterans Affairs official site points out that veterans and currently serving military members should be very concerned in this area since cardiovascular disease is associated with a number of conditions that veterans may experience as a result of military service.
In the 1960s, the Department of Veterans Affairs offered some of the earliest evidence that managing high blood pressure and stress can significantly reduce or delay the onset of these medical issues.
The human eye has a clear lens that can become cloudy over time; the cloudiness is known as a cataract and can cause blurry or otherwise altered vision, nearsightedness, and other problems. Cataracts affect vision depending on where they occur; there may be a disruption of vision in the center of the lens, the outer edges, the rear of the lens, etc. Cataracts may not interfere with vision much or at all in the earliest stages, but over time they will impair vision more and more.
Eye surgery can remove the cataracts and replace the lens, but it’s best to get early detection of the condition so you can manage the progress of the cataracts.
Cells in the human body divide and replace dead cells on a regular basis, but this cell division and growth does not always behave in a consistent manner. There can be mutations or alterations that cause some cells to become malignant; some of these malignant cells may begin reproducing at an elevated rate. Cancer can be the result of this elevated or even out-of-control reproduction.
There are many different kinds of cancer, with more than 200 diseases associated with it. The Department of Veterans Affairs official site says that a VA cancer study from 2012 notes more than 40,000 cancer cases are reported to VA’s Central Cancer Registry annually, accounting for approximately three percent of all U.S. cancer cases.
Among the most commonly diagnosed conditions related to cancer are lung, urinary, bladder, colorectal, prostate, and bronchial cancer. The list of medical issues associated with cancer include, but are not limited to:
- Acute Myeloid Leukemia
- Adrenocortical Carcinoma
- Anal Cancer
- Atypical Teratoid/Rhabdoid Tumor, Childhood, Central Nervous System (Brain Cancer)
- Basal Cell Carcinoma of the Skin
- Bile Duct Cancer
- Bladder Cancer
- Bone Cancer
- Brain Tumors
- Breast Cancer
- Burkitt Lymphoma
- Carcinoid Tumor (Gastrointestinal)
- Cardiac Tumors
- Cervical Cancer
- Colorectal Cancer
- Endometrial Cancer (Uterine Cancer)
- Fallopian Tube Cancer
- Gallbladder Cancer
- Hairy Cell Leukemia
- Head and Neck Cancer
- Hepatocellular (Liver) Cancer
- Hodgkin Lymphoma
- Intraocular Melanoma
- Liver Cancer
- Lung Cancer
- Male Breast Cancer
- Malignant Fibrous Histiocytoma of Bone and Osteosarcoma
- Mesothelioma, Malignant
- Metastatic Squamous Neck Cancer with Occult Primary (Head and Neck Cancer)
- Multiple Myeloma/Plasma Cell Neoplasms
- Myelodysplastic Syndromes
- Myelogenous Leukemia
- Myeloid Leukemia, Acute (AML)
- Myeloproliferative Neoplasms, Chronic
- Nasopharyngeal Cancer (Head and Neck Cancer)
- Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
- Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
- Osteosarcoma and Malignant Fibrous Histiocytoma of Bone
- Ovarian Cancer
- Pancreatic Cancer
- Primary Peritoneal Cancer
- Prostate Cancer
- Rectal Cancer
- Renal Cell (Kidney) Cancer
- Rhabdomyosarcoma, Childhood (Soft Tissue Sarcoma)
- Salivary Gland Cancer (Head and Neck Cancer)
- Skin Cancer
- T-Cell Lymphoma
- Testicular Cancer
- Urethral Cancer
- Vascular Tumors (Soft Tissue Sarcoma)
Diagnosis and treatment of the medical conditions related to cancer will vary greatly depending on the nature and severity of the problem. The Department of Veterans Affairs has done extensive research into cancer and its causes including a 2013 trial exploring the connection between surgical treatment and radiological treatment of prostate cancer and the side effects associated with both types of treatment.
A related prostate cancer study by the VA involves gene therapy, which involved stem cell antigens which “seems to stop prostate tumors from growing in mice.” Such research is important for the future of treatment of many cancers, not just the specific condition an individual may need treatment for. Treating cancer may involve a combination of therapies as there is at the time of this writing no “magic bullet” to use as a cure.
Military members can be exposed to cancer-causing agents commonly referred to as carcinogens; veterans of Vietnam, the Gulf War, and other conflicts may have had exposure to Agent Orange, toxic smoke from burn pits, even contamination of drinking water supplies due to solvents or other contaminants as in the case of Camp Lejeune (see above).
Military members train in a wide variety of climates and weather conditions; cold weather injuries can be a serious risk depending on the duration and intensity of the exposure. Hypothermia, frostbite, and a condition formerly known as “trenchfoot” (now known as ‘immersion foot”) are all potential injuries troops may receive as a result of cold-weather missions. Cold weather operations in the past where these injuries were commonplace include:
- Battle of the Bulge (December 1944 through January 1945), World War Two
- The Chosin Reservoir Campaign (October 1950 through December 1950), Korean War
- Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan
Cold weather injuries can result in frostbite scarring, neurological damage, vascular injuries, and other problems. Body parts that have been exposed to sufficient cold over a prolonged period of time may require amputation depending on a variety of factors.
Service members who suffered cold weather injuries and are concerned about making a VA claim for such service-connected cold weather issues should contact a Department of Veterans Affairs Environmental Health coordinator.
Common Conditions (OEF/OIF)
While what the VA terms “Common Conditions” not specifically aimed at one single medical issue associated with military service in Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom, there are certain veteran benefits offered to those who have medical conditions related to service in those campaigns.
One example? The Department of Veterans Affairs offers five years of free medical care “…to OEF/OIF Veterans for any injury or illness associated” with military service. Those who need such benefits should know the following steps as described on the VA official site:
- Locate a VA Medical Center for an initial consultation;
- Complete VA Form 10-10EZ to submit online, by phone, by regular U.S. postal mail, or in person;
- Remember to bring your DD214 with you to the first consultation;
- Find a local VA OEF/OIF Team for assistance getting the benefits you are entitled to.
Traditionally, a certain percentage of the military population have been and continue to be tobacco users. While the Department of Defense has conducted many awareness campaigns aimed at helping people understand the risks of smoking, some will continue to be tobacco users no matter what. Unfortunately, smoking is associated with certain diseases that include COPD (see below), emphysema, and chronic bronchitis.
Chronic bronchitis is directly linked with tobacco use; it is essentially an inflammation of the airway, described by the VA official site as including a narrowing of the bronchial tubes resulting in breathing difficulty, and a “productive cough” that brings up mucus or sputum. Smoking cessation is one of the most direct preventive measures that can be taken to prevent this condition or reduce its effects.
COPD stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. This condition is defined as a group of conditions or symptoms that interfere with breathing and normal lung operation. One tell-tale symptom is difficulty exhaling, but it is important to consult a medical professional about any respiratory symptom in order to get the right diagnosis. COPD is both preventable and treatable.
Veterans are often required to work in conditions that can give them a higher risk for developing COPD than the general population, but as the VA official site points out, one high-risk factor is present in both military and civilian populations; smoking.
Those who suffer from COPD deal with an obstructed airway which makes breathing harder. There is no cure for COPD, but treatment can help manage the symptoms. Smoking cessation is one of the biggest steps toward a healthier lifestyle with COPD, medication may help, and exercise can help reduce symptoms, too.
Shortness of breath is a common symptom among many respiratory illnesses including COPD; if you experience an unusual shortness of breath it is best to see a medical professional right away to rule out other conditions or to rule out COPD itself should another underlying problem be the actual cause.
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