What health problems can the diseases Camp Lejeune veterans develop be mistaken for?

Michael Bartlett

By Michael Bartlett

Posted on September 21st, 2022

Because the health problems Camp Lejeune Marine veterans and their family members develop as a result of toxic exposure are very complex, they can easily be misdiagnosed. For this reason, it is crucial to seek a second and even a third opinion if you lived at this military base, as you must have a correct diagnosis to be eligible for compensation.

Every year, up to 12 million Americans receive a wrong diagnosis upon their first medical appointment and even when they are examined by a second doctor. However, the rate of misdiagnosis is even higher in veterans, as the health problems they come to struggle with are usually caused by toxic exposure in the military. This makes it difficult and challenging even for experienced medical specialists to assign a definite, accurate diagnosis to veterans. Between 40,000 and 80,000 people die annually because of misdiagnosis, and women and minorities are 30% more likely to receive incorrect diagnoses.

In 2016, a veteran from Temecula, California, who was struggling with a life-threatening spinal infection, was misdiagnosed by the VA three times. He went twice to the VA emergency department in Loma Linda because of the excruciating symptoms he was experiencing, yet the medical staff failed to run a simple blood test that could have immediately determined what his diagnosis was. He was not even seen by a doctor. The 39-year-old man was diagnosed with a low back sprain and was advised to stretch. Eventually, he and his wife decided to pay themselves for an MRI scan to see what was truly wrong with his back.

The test revealed that he actually had severe spinal stenosis, a condition in which the spinal canal narrows toward the base, pinching the nerves and constricting the spinal cord. A very aggressive staph infection was also found, which could have been fatal. His spinal canal was swollen, hence his debilitating symptoms. Surgery was necessary, but the VA delayed it multiple times. Because the VA would not offer the urgent procedure to the veteran, his wife arranged for a surgeon outside the system to handle his health problem. Thankfully, the surgery was successful, but this case only illustrates the flaws within the healthcare system, which is why veterans should see more than one medical specialist.

The misdiagnoses veterans and their family members exposed to toxic agents at Camp Lejeune may receive

There are nearly 40 diagnoses veterans, as well as their spouses and children, can receive as a consequence of spending time at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987. Because some of these health problems are rare or complex, anyone who drank contaminated water at the military base is at high risk of misdiagnosis. Women and children are even more likely to receive a wrong diagnosis. Children may develop certain diseases that are usually seen in adults or the elderly. The following are the most common misdiagnoses for each health problem stemming from Camp Lejeune toxic exposure:

  • bladder cancer: cystitis, prostate infection, kidney cancer, prostate cancer, bladder papilloma, overactive bladder, benign prostatic hyperplasia, kidney infection
  • breast cancer (male and female): fibroadenomas, blocked milk duct, breast cysts, fibrocystic breast disease, lipomas, fibroids, pseudoangiomatous stromal hyperplasia
  • kidney cancer: urinary tract infection, cystitis, kidney stones, respiratory problems, renal toxicity, kidney disease, kidney failure
  • adult leukemia: immune thrombocytopenic purpura, influenza, bleeding disorders, autoimmune lymphoproliferative syndrome, aplastic anemia, mononucleosis, thrombocytosis, myelodysplastic syndromes, chronic lymphoproliferative illness
  • lung cancer: asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease, lung abscess, lung nodules, acid reflux, pneumonia, pleural effusion, tuberculosis, pleural plaques, lymphoma, pulmonary embolism
  • prostate cancer: overactive bladder, prostatitis, prostate enlargement
  • multiple myeloma: kidney damage, neurological symptoms, hypercalcemia, amyloidosis, bone pain, anemia
  • non-Hodgkin's lymphoma: indolent T-cell lymphoproliferative disease of the gastrointestinal tract, costochondritis, ovarian cysts, appendicitis, hemorrhoids, gastroenteritis
  • liver cancer: cirrhosis, gastroenteritis, influenza, gallstones, alveolar hydatid disease, fatty liver disease, hepatic hemangioma, liver abscess, mosses syndrome, pancreatic cancer
  • ovarian cancer: irritable bowel syndrome, polycystic ovary syndrome, ovarian cysts, urinary tract infection, changing menopausal status, diverticulitis
  • aplastic anemia: hemophilia, sickle cell disease, leukocytosis, thalassemia, regular anemia, Von Willebrand disease, leukemia, myeloma, lymphoma, erythrocytosis, leucopenia
  • Parkinson's disease: progressive supranuclear palsy, essential tremor, dementia with Lewy bodies, normal pressure hydrocephalus, multiple system atrophy, corticobasal syndrome
  • esophageal cancer: acid reflux, esophagitis, gastroesophageal reflux disease, esophageal fistula, heartburn
  • brain cancer: viral encephalitis, migraine, Alzheimer's disease, encephalitis, Lyme disease, multiple sclerosis, subdural hematoma, meningitis, headache
  • pancreatic cancer: gastroesophageal reflux disease, peptic ulcer, gallbladder disease, pancreatitis, autoimmune pancreatitis, celiac disease, hepatocellular carcinoma, pancreatic pseudocyst, biliary stricture, cystic neoplasm
  • soft tissue sarcoma: lipoma, hematoma, deep venous thrombosis, pulmonary embolism
  • neurobehavioral effects: autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, Tourette syndrome, brain tumor, cerebral aneurysm, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, epilepsy, stroke, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease
  • appendix cancer: female infertility, hernia, ovarian cysts, appendicitis, ovarian tumors, colon cancer, fibroids
  • bile duct cancer: hemangioma, primary biliary cholangitis, gallstones, cholangitis, biliary stones, inflammation
  • gallbladder cancer: liver cancer, gallstones, biliary stones, cancer of unknown primary
  • female infertility: problems in the menstrual cycle, endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, uterine fibroids
  • miscarriage: ectopic pregnancy, preeclampsia, amniotic fluid complications, eclampsia

It is important to note that the above list is by no means comprehensive, as there are many other diagnoses a person with these health problems can wrongly be assigned. Our attorneys specialize in toxic exposure and may be able to help you file a Camp Lejeune water contamination claim/lawsuit if you spent time at the military base for at least 30 consecutive days between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987. We will have to carefully review your documents to determine whether you are entitled to financial compensation under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act and from the VA if you are a veteran.

We provide quality legal assistance to Camp Lejeune toxic exposure victims

Since 1990, our law firm has been dedicated to offering quality assistance to toxic exposure victims, and many of our clients are veterans. If you developed one of the health problems associated with drinking contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, we encourage you to get in touch with our resourceful attorneys. As a veteran, you will have to send us your military records, which you must retrieve, and your medical records.

If you are a family member of a veteran whose health was impacted by toxic exposure at Camp Lejeune, you may also be eligible to file a claim. Our legal team will need evidence of your stay at the military base and your medical records clearly stating your diagnosis. Following a thorough review of your documents, we will know whether you meet the eligibility criteria for compensation and if you do, we will promptly begin working on your claim.