Vietnam Parasite Is Killing Vets
A year ago, bile duct cancer seen in Vietnam veterans was a hot topic in the news, briefly. Now it’s fallen out of the headlines — but it hasn’t stopped affecting veterans, and a U.S. senator is calling for a federal study.
Bile duct cancer in veterans who served in Vietnam (or Korea, Thailand or Laos) no doubt comes from eating fish contaminated with a water-borne parasitic worm called a fluke, from being in or washing with fresh water, or from drinking river water. Decades later, the presence of the worm in the liver bile ducts causes cancer (cholangiocarcinoma) that has nearly no initial symptoms. It’s only when the cancer is very advanced that symptoms appear.
The publichealth.va.gov website lists “jaundice (yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes), pain in the abdomen, dark urine, light or ‘clay’ colored stool, fever, itchy skin, nausea and vomiting, and unexplained weight loss” as symptoms of bile duct cancer. Additionally, the disease is rare in the United States. If you have any suspicions at all, tell your doctor, ideally a doctor with the Department of Veterans Affairs.
If you have cancer, file a claim. More claims for bile duct cancer have been approved:
nva.gov/vetapp13/ Files1/1301261.txt nva.gov/vetapp12/files1/ 1206119.txt nva.gov/vetapp11/files5/
The first veterans (or their spouses, after the veteran died) who applied for benefits were turned down. That is slowly changing. But it’s going to be a long haul to have the disease classified as a presumptive — just like Agent Orange.
One step toward getting the cancer listed as a presumptive is to get the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine to look at the correlation between the cancer and the flukes, as Sen. Chuck Schumer has requested. His number is (202) 224-6542.