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Twice A Veteran

Tom Galli

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I’m an armed forces veteran. Also, a late stage diagnosed lung cancer survivor veteran. A smoker, I once had little doubt that smoking caused my lung cancer. Yet almost everyone in my immediate family smoked and none developed the disease. Could the unique hazards of armed forces training and warfare played a role in my disease? 

Looking back, early in my career were demolition projects involving World War II era structures that were filled with asbestos. On deployment, burn pits predominated and everything was mixed with diesel fuel and burned in cut-down 55 gallon drums. As an engineer soldier, we trained extensively with demolitions and smoke and dust was a common exposure. I also directed fabrication of aluminum armored vehicles that included fumes and vapor from aluminum welding and superfine dust from machining. Lest I forget, there was the omnipresent smoke filled haze that lingered for months after Saddam decided to burn the Kuwait oil fields. I’ve inhaled a lot of stuff during the course of my Army career and maybe that played a role in the development of my lung cancer.

Fortunately, there are new tools and programs for armed forces veterans that might help avoid a late-stage diagnosis.  The Veterans Administration has two important programs to early detect lung cancer: VA-PALS, a low dose CT screening program for at risk vets and the Gulf War Registry Health Exam for veterans. LUNGevity is adding its weight to support veterans. We’ve just established a Veterans Forum in the Lung Cancer Support Community that is now open as a support and information resource. A low dose CT scan is a good idea for those who served.

Stay the course.



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