What Are Respiratory Cancers?

Respiratory cancers are a group of cancers that affect the respiratory system. The most common respiratory cancer is lung cancer, but bronchial, larynx, and tracheal cancer also occur. Because each of these cancers affects the same organ system, the symptoms are relatively similar for each cancer type:

  • Breathlessness
  • Wheezing
  • Chest pain
  • Infections
  • Chills
  • Coughing up blood
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Shortness of breath 

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms on a persistent basis, please contact your doctor.

While family history can play a role in the development of respiratory cancers, exposure to environmental toxins is often the more common cause. Of the environmental toxins that can cause respiratory cancer, smoking is by far the most predominant, contributing to 90 and 80 percent of lung cancer deaths in men and women, respectively. However, another environmental toxin that many veterans are familiar with also plays a role in the development of respiratory cancers: Agent Orange. 

Agent Orange was an herbicide used to remove underbrush for the purpose of making room for military operations in the jungle but was later found to have adverse effects on the health of those who came into contact with it. According to a 1994 scientific report and its subsequent updates, there is suggestive evidence that Agent Orange can cause respiratory cancers along with a variety of other health conditions. After the release of this information, the VA moved to make all veterans who had been exposed to Agent Orange subject to presumptive service connection for certain health conditions. This means that any veterans who have a health condition the VA considers to be the result of Agent Orange can gain service connection for that condition provided they can prove that they served in an area of presumptive exposure during their military service.

How The VA Rates Respiratory Cancers

Under 38 CFR § 4.97, the VA rates respiratory cancers based on the severity of neoplasms (tumors) present on any organs of the respiratory system. 

Diagnostic Code 6819:

  • 100 – Neoplasms, malignant, any specified part of respiratory system exclusive of skin growths

A 100 percent rating will continue beyond the completion of any chemotherapy, surgical, or other therapeutic intervention for six months. After that time, the VA will request that the veteran complete a Compensation and Pension (C&P) exam in order to assess the status of the veteran’s illness and determine the proper schedular disability rating. If there is no presence of cancer recurrence or metastasis, the VA will rate the veteran’s condition based on any residual conditions. Benign neoplasms are also rated based on any residual conditions the tumor may cause:

Diagnostic Code 6820:

  • Neoplasms, benign, any specified part of respiratory system. Evaluate using an appropriate respiratory analogy.

Residual conditions are secondary conditions that occur as a result of the original service connected condition even if the original condition is inactive or benign. For example, the VA could rate residuals for respiratory cancer under the rating schedules for laryngitis, pharynx injuries, chronic bronchitis, or others depending on the type of residual condition the veteran’s respiratory cancer caused.

Help With Your Respiratory Cancer Claim

If you are a veteran seeking assistance with your VA respiratory cancer claim, please contact our office today. We have helped numerous veterans obtain service connection for their Agent Orange exposure-related conditions and are ready to help you get the compensation to which you are entitled.