Viet­nam Par­a­site Is Killing Vets

The Weekly Vista - - Fun & Games -

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 pub­ 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:­tap­p15Files4/

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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.

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