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throat cancer and agent orange

Posts: 1
Joined: Jan 2004

greetings to all.I am a State Representative in the Maine State House.I have retired from the Air Force as a 22 year Msgt.I was diagnosed with laryngeal cancer ,had 6 surgeries and months of radiation and swallow therapy.I am 100% disabled in the agent orange program having been exposed to agent orange in 67-68 in country.I have worked for many years as an advocate,lobbyist and a volunteer with veterans.I serve on the committee for legal and veterans affairs and I am chairman of the Veterans health Care Task Force for the State.If I can ever be of any help to anyone in any way.Please email or call me anytime day or night.Official contacts: email reproger.landry@legislature.maine.gov tel 1 800 423 2900 or 207 2871400. Personal: email feenix@metrocast.net tel 207 490 3483

spongebob's picture
Posts: 2599
Joined: Apr 2003

Ahoy, feenix!

Thanks for the post and your offer. I was unaware that throat cancer was yet another side effect of AO - believing it was mostly stomach cancer that resulted.

Know that the work you do is extremely important and much appreciated! And just seeing that you are still here to fight that fight no doubt gives a lot of folks faith that thay will also beat cancer.

Hope you're keeping warm up there in ME. How 'bout those patriots?

- SpongeBob

Posts: 2
Joined: Mar 2005

I am a Viet Nam vet from Iowa exposed to agent orange. I was first diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma of the tonsil in 1984 at the age of 36. Treatment was surgery. Ten years later, at the age of 46, I got it again in the other tonsil. Treatment was surgery radiation, dental surgery, hyperbaric oxygen treatment. It was a long haul, but I am still healthy. I am looking for any information regarding my type of cancer and agent orange exposure. I want to file a claim with the VA so I can have VA insurance in place if I should happen to get sick again.

Posts: 2
Joined: Sep 2005

I am A Viet Nam vet that had squamous cell carcinoma of the tonsil that spread to my lymph nodes. There is legislation just introduced in Congress that could make pharyngeal cancer compensable. Lets drum up some support for it. Congressman Bradley of N.H. has introduced a bill to add nasopharyngeal cancer to the list of presumptive diseases associated with exposure to Agent Orange during military service in Viet Nam. The bill is titled H.R. 3209. Please contact your Congressman/woman and ask them to support/co-sponser this bill. Thank you, Mickey

Posts: 9
Joined: Dec 2005

My husband had Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma . (By the time they found it, it was stage 4, 2 - 4 years after it started.) The chemo & radiation stopped the cancer 10 years ago. However, the radiation has been taking his sight & hearing for the past 5 years. He's learned to adapt to the loss of saliva. But he's legally blind and has glacoma from the radiation. (He also has emphyzema, which I don't think is related?? but adds to his disability).
I have been following the VA-Agent Orange newsletter for years waiting for nasopharyngeal cancer to be up graded to service related. Even though it is category 3 - Inadequate/insufficient evidence category, it is so rare that I don't think any more research is being done on it.
**Is there any way to find out, how many of the few men in America with it, were in Vietnam? Because if only 1.4 white males per 100,000 in US have it - why is he 1?
**I just read in the Agent Orange Newsletter that even if his cancer is on the presumptive list, we'll still have a problem with his claim because he was on a Navy ship. And I don't think he was ever on land in Vietnam. Only the Phillipines & Hong Kong. Do you have any info on Navy vets' claims?
Thank you for posting your reply.

Posts: 1
Joined: Jul 2010


Please accept my prayers that your husband and you are now considered survivors.

On the subject of throat cancer and AO, within this website and also the Mayo clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/oral-and-throat-cancer/DS00349/DSECTION=risk-factors; there seems to be a connection between smoking and excessive alcohol with throat cancer.

But what I found interesting to your husband's case was the Mayo Clinic's last reference - Asbestos. US Navy ships, especially old WW-2 ones, were loaded with asbestos. Is this the nexus of medical evidence between service-connection to current disability that you are looking for to file a claim?

Most of the US Navy personnel that actually put feet on the ground (and those USN personnel the Mekong/Riverine Forces) in South East Asia (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia) are getting a higher success rate for AO claims. Those US Navy personnel on a big ship (the blue water navy) have a better case with asbestos/mesothelioma serrvice connection.

blackie2's picture
Posts: 1
Joined: Jul 2017

There is a website that lists U.S. navy ships that were exposed to Agent orange.     If the ship was offshore in The Nam, there is a good chance it will

be listed.



alrankin's picture
Posts: 2
Joined: Sep 2010

I just finished radiation treatment after being diagnosed with stage 2 laryngeal cancer. Am now recovering from the radiation and hopefully the cancer too, although that is yet to be determined. I spent 3 "cruises" in the Tonkin Gulf from 67-70 working on the flight deck of USS Ranger and also flying as a crewman on A-3 Skywarriors. We flew tanker/ECM support for all mission during those years. Now I'm wondering if the VA will allow any disability whatsoever related to agent orange, given all the tiptoing going on in congress. What is the latest and is there an approach to take in this regard at the present time?

Posts: 3
Joined: Oct 2010

I'm starting to look into this for a client of mine. He's been denied 3x now trying it on his own. I've never done a VA case before. I've looked at the decisions. I too wonder if there's any new studies? Who is a good expert witness?

MarineE5's picture
Posts: 898
Joined: Dec 2005


The VA was paying the claims for Agent Orange for a period of time in the 90's up to around 2002. The VA then stopped accepting the claims stating that the Veteran had to have " foot on ground " records.

A person by the name of HASS fought the VA and won his claim in 2006 HASS vs. NICHOLSON. Then, a three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled 2-1 on May 8,2008 that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) acted lawfully and reasonably in 2002 when it cut off Agent Orange-related disability payments and began to deny new claims from veterans who served on ships off the coast of Vietnam but never actually “set foot” in country.

Here is a link you might find useful:


There is currently 2 Bills that have been submitted to re-word some existing rulings. The Bills are H2254 and S1939, exactly where they are as far as being voted on, I did not check.

Good Luck

Posts: 4
Joined: Jan 2010

I interacted with this discussion group a few years ago when my husband (Army Nam Vet) was diagnosed with tonsilar cancer. I'm checking back to see if there have been any updates on congressional action to support vets who were exposed to Agent Orange and developed cancer of the tonsils. My husband, who survived his cancer but is now disabled, applied for vet benefits and was refused in 2010. Any new news? Thanks.

MarineE5's picture
Posts: 898
Joined: Dec 2005


I am not sure as to how much information you have received in the past, but you might want to search the VA Board of Appeals and view some of the appeals and read the claims that were Granted. Many claims are denied, but there are several that get Granted and that is what is needed to get your husband's claim approved. I found it easier to go to each claim and scroll down to the bottom right from the start to see which ones were denied or granted.

I do know of several people that had their claims approved, but it took their Doctors writing " Expert Opinions" in favor of the Veteran. Some Doctors will not do this, so the Veteran is then denied, because the VA has their own Experts on the other side reviewing the hearing and disputing the Veteran's claim.

I have read some claims where the Veteran might have a hearing, but show up with only a friend or family member. The VA wants to hear Expert Opinions, not hear say.

You may want to have him re-submit his claim since he is now disabled. It may or may not be approved. The main thing is to prove that there is a connection between his cancer and Agent Orange. We all drank the water there.

My Best to You and Everyone Here

Posts: 4
Joined: Jan 2010

I appreciate your response and suggestions. I am also considering contacting my federal senators and representatives to ask them to reconsider the earlier legislation that was introduced regarding throat cancer and Agent Orange as a presumptive cause. I'll keep you informed.

Posts: 53
Joined: Aug 2010

check out: http://www.vba.va.gov/VBA/benefits/factsheets/index.asp#BM2

also our doctor had given us a copy of what his teams plan were for what operations would be done, chemo and radiation treatment etc.. that we gave to va and also took with us when he had to visit the va doctor who sends their finding to make the claim. They also went back in to his dental records and in there found notes on the problems he was having way back in the 80's with GERD. Be sure to mention ever scar you have no matter how little as they also count.

Hope this is helpful for you and others

Posts: 4
Joined: Jan 2010

MarineE5 and Friends,
I'm seeking your support as I work for congressional action regarding veteran's assistance for tonsil cancer that came about as a result of Agent Orange exposure.
As the wife of a dear Vietnam vet, I recently met with a representative from Senator Harkin's office (Democratic Senator from Iowa) and requested that Senator Harkin review the research on tonsil(and related cancers) due to Agent Orange. I asked him to re-submit legislation on the issue, noting that Senator Bradley of New Jersey submitted proposed legislation in 2005 to include nasopharyngeal carcinoma as a presumptive cause of Agent Orange exposure. Nasopharyngeal carcinoma, linked to tonsil and related cancers, is not included in "presumptive" causes of Agent Orange despite research studies suggesting a link. Senator Bradley's 2005 proposal was not successful. (Senator Bill Bradley H.R. 3209).
I encourage you all to contact your Congressional senators and representatives to echo the request I made to Senator Harkin. Below are the key points I highlighted in my Harkin request:

I am seeking your assistance in supporting my husband Bill, a 63-year-old Vietnam veteran who is disabled. A victim of Agent Orange contamination, Bill has been denied veteran’s benefits due to a demographic anomaly. His specific diagnosis has been included in a legislative study and in related proposed legislation, but the legislation was allowed to lapse in Congress.

As you may know, Nam vets who were exposed to Agent Orange and were subsequently diagnosed with cancer are eligible for benefits if their cancer falls into the “presumptive” categories which “presume” that their cancer was caused by Agent Orange exposure regardless of other factors. Squamous cell cancer of the tonsils, my husband’s diagnosis, is linked to the presumptive categories, but not included. Please take into account the following issues as you consider my husband’s condition and its relationship to Agent Orange:

• Tonsils are not included in the presumptive categories despite the fact that they are systemically linked to the presumed categories that include cancer of the larynx, lung, trachea, bronchus and other related conditions.
• The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies was commissioned in 2006 by the federal government to conduct a study on tonsil cancer and Agent Orange exposure. The results called for additional study due to “inadequate or insufficient evidence to determine association” of tonsil cancer and Agent Orange. (Abstract of original study attached)
• The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies in a report on veterans and Agent Orange recommended in 2010 that “work needs to be undertaken to resolve questions regarding health outcomes, most importantly COPD, tonsil cancer. . . “(Brief attached)
• Logically, the reason for insufficient numbers of tonsil cancer victims is due to the demographic phenomenon that the majority of Baby Boomers had their tonsils removed. Bill was among the minority who did not. It’s impossible to get tonsil cancer if you have no tonsils . . . thus “insufficient evidence.”
• The issue of squamous cell tonsil cancer (linked to nasopharyngeal carcinoma and other throat cancers) as a result of Agent Orange exposure is significant enough that a number of web sites are devoted to Nam vets who are suffering from these diagnoses. An online search using any one of the linked cancer diagnoses plus the term Agent Orange brings up multiple sites.
• Legislation to include nasopharyngeal carcinoma as a presumptive cause of Agent Orange exposure was introduced by Senator Badley (New Jersey) in 2005 but it never came to fruition. (Senator Bill Bradley H.R. 3209)
• Tonsil cancer (squamous cell) is a relatively rare diagnosis. When one takes into account the small number of Nam vets who had tonsils and were subsequently diagnosed with the cancer, I suspect the Nam vet percentage would be significantly higher than that for non-exposed populations.
A final note from Normaof68: Nam Vets: Please let me know if you have any questions about my appeal to Senator Harkin. Thank you all for your good work in the 1960's and beyond.

Posts: 1
Joined: Apr 2013

Thanks for your post.  Do you have a counterpart in West Virginia or FL?  My former husband is in the Moffitt Cancer Center and had a 14 hours surgery on Tuesday for squamous cell cancer of the jaw.  They removed all his lower teeth, 70% of his jaw, part of his tongue, part of his soft pallet, and part of his neck.  He was in country in Vietnam from July 1969 to July 1970.  He was a CW2 Medevac helicopter pilot and exposed to AO.  He was also a smoke and drinker.  He has a disability rating now but I am not sure of the percentage, but I know it is not 100% total and permanent.  He also has A fib.  He seems too young to me to be as ill as he is.  Our sons are with him in the hospital and I would like to tell them what information they need to get from his doctors now while this is current.  Can you advise us on what information to get and who to talk to in FL or WV.  He lives in St. Petersburg and is a patient at Bay Pines who referred him to the Moffitt Center for fee base care since his cancer was so agressive.  I and my oldest son live in WV and our youngest son lives in Atlanta.  You assistance and advise would be greatly appreciate.   Sincerely, HRHeady

Posts: 1
Joined: May 2017

My name is David Hemmings and I am also a cancer survivor.  I was diagnosed with throat cancer June, 2015.  I am also a veteran USAF and was exposed to agent orange during my short stay Vietnam and also my deployment at Eglin AFB, where there was agent orange testing. 

I applied to the VA for disability and was responded with a letter stating I need a doctor to provide medical confirmation that my cancer was associated with dioxin exposure.  I talked to my radiologist doctor and he informed me that it would be almost impossible to prove direct association.

Can anyone help direct me to where I need to go for help getting the information the VA is looking for



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