Veterans stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina, may be unknowingly dealing with illnesses and disabilities related to their time in service. This is because of the water contamination at the base. Veterans who were stationed at Camp Lejeune between August 1953 and December 1987 may have been exposed to toxic drinking water. During this timeframe, servicemembers and their families were exposed to toxic chemicals in the water, such as trichlorethylene, perchloroethylene, vinyl chloride, and benzene.
Scientific evidence has linked the toxic chemicals in the water to the development of certain diseases and illnesses later in life. One of those illnesses is liver cancer.
What is Liver Cancer?
To understand what liver cancer is, you must first know what the liver is. The liver is an organ in the upper right of your abdomen, above your stomach and below your diaphragm. The main functions of the liver include filtering your blood, creating bile for digestion, and storing glycogen (a form of energy).
Liver cancer is defined by Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit academic medical center, as any form of cancer that begins in your liver’s cells. There are many different types of liver cancer, notably hepatocellular carcinoma, intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma, and hepatoblastoma.
Cancer can also spread to the liver from other areas of the body, such as the colon or lungs. This type of cancer is known as metastatic cancer since it did not originate in the liver. For example, colon cancer that spreads to the liver is known as metastatic colon cancer.
Liver Cancer Symptoms
The signs and symptoms associated with liver cancer typically do not show during the early stages of the cancer. However, as the cancer progresses, the symptoms typically become more severe. Some common symptoms according to Mayo Clinic are:
- Unexpected weight loss
- Decreased appetite
- Abdomen pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Swelling in the abdomen
- Jaundice (yellow discoloration of the skin)
- Pale stools
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and you think they are attributable to liver cancer, you should make an appointment with your doctor.
Did Camp Lejeune Cause My Liver Cancer?
Liver cancer, like all forms of cancer, occurs when a cell mutates. The mutated cell, known as an oncogene, does not contain the correct DNA to stop reproduction. Therefore, your body continues to produce mutated cells (oncogenes) that eventually form a tumor.
The cause of liver cancer may be known in some cases, such as with chronic hepatitis infections and exposure to contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune. Sometimes the source of the cancer is unknown in individuals without underlying issues.
There are certain risk factors that may make you more susceptible to liver cancer. Mayo clinic defines that following as risk factors for liver cancer:
- Chronic hepatitis B/C infections
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
- Exposure to Aflatoxins
- Alcohol consumption
Liver cancer is often associated with alcoholism, but many other factors can lead to liver cancer, like exposure to harmful chemicals in Camp Lejeune’s drinking water.
VA Compensation for Liver Cancer
Veterans who were injured in-service or are dealing with current illnesses due to their time in-service are entitled to disability compensation from the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA). To receive disability benefits from the VA, a Veteran must typically prove service connection for their current illnesses and disabilities.
To prove service connection, a Veteran must show three things:
- A current medical diagnosis
- An in-service event that caused the disability
- A nexus connecting the in-service event to the current diagnosis
However, Veterans who were exposed to the contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune and later developed liver cancer do not need to prove as much since their disability is presumptive condition.
Presumptive Service Connection for Liver Cancer from Camp Lejeune
Scientific evidence suggests certain disabilities and illnesses are likely caused by exposure to certain things in the military. For example, the VA recognizes certain disabilities and illnesses it presumes were caused by exposure to contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune based on scientific data.
One of the presumptive conditions for Camp Lejeune water contamination is liver cancer. A Veteran who has liver cancer due to Camp Lejeune needs to only prove two things:
- They were stationed at Camp Lejeune for 30+ consecutive days between August 1953 – December 1987
- They have a current liver cancer diagnosis
If a Veteran can prove both elements, they should be granted service connection from the VA.
Veterans Benefits Attorneys
Veterans who were stationed at Camp Lejeune and later developed liver cancer are entitled to disability compensation. If you applied for disability benefits and were denied by the VA or given a low rating, you have the right to appeal.
Berry Law is a team of Veterans and attorneys who are dedicated to helping fellow vets in their fight for disability compensation. Berry Law has helped over 20,000 Veterans appeal unfavorable VA decisions. If you would like to appeal your VA rating, contact Berry Law today for a free case evaluation.
For more information on VA benefits for Camp Lejeune water contamination, click here.