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Respiratory Cancers and Agent Orange

Veterans who develop respiratory cancer (lung, bronchus, larynx, or trachea) and were exposed to Agent Orange or other herbicides during military service do not have to prove a connection between their disease and service to be eligible to receive VA health care and disability compensation.

About respiratory cancers

doctor looking at lung x-ray

Respiratory cancers are cancers of the lung, larynx, trachea, and bronchus.

Symptoms vary, depending on the location of the cancer:

  • Lung cancer—a new cough or cough that doesn’t go away, coughing up blood, shortness of breath, chest pain, hoarseness
  • Cancer of the trachea—dry cough, hoarseness, breathlessness, difficulty swallowing
  • Cancer of the larynx (at the top of the trachea)—hoarseness, voice changes, sore throat or earache, feeling of a lump in the throat
  • Cancer of the bronchus—cough, chest pain, coughing blood

Visit Medline Plus to learn more about treatment of cancer and the latest research from the National Institutes of Health.

Guard against lung cancer

Number one rule: Don't smoke and avoid secondhand smoke. VA can help you every step of the way to quit smoking.

VA benefits for respiratory cancers

Veterans with respiratory cancers (lung, bronchus, larynx, or trachea) who were exposed to herbicides during service may be eligible for disability compensation and health care.

Veterans who served in Vietnam, the Korean demilitarized zone or another area where Agent Orange was sprayed may be eligible for a free Agent Orange registry health exam.

Surviving spouses, dependent children and dependent parents of Veterans who were exposed to herbicides during military service and died as the result of respiratory cancers may be eligible for survivors' benefits.

Research on respiratory cancers and herbicides

The Health and Medicine Division (HMD) (formally known as the Institute of Medicine) of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine concluded in its 1994 report "Veterans and Agent Orange: Health Effects of Herbicides Used in Vietnam" and in future updates that there is limited/suggestive evidence of an association between exposure to herbicides (2,4-D; 2,4,5-T and its contaminant TCDD; cacodylic acid; and picloram) and respiratory cancers.

In updates to this report, HMD noted that associations linking development of respiratory cancers and exposure to dioxin were found consistently only when herbicide exposures appeared to be high and prolonged.

View more research on health effects of Agent Orange.


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