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Last updated on January 11, 2021

Cholangiocarcinoma in Vietnam Veterans

November 29, 2017

Veterans who have served in Vietnam could have a new battle to fight, this time from home. Cholangiocarcinoma, a disease contracted from eating river fish. This slow killing parasite is found in certain parts of Asia and is contracted from uncooked fish.
This rare bile duct cancer is formed from inflammation and scarring. Symptoms only begin to arise years after the disease becomes attached to the bile duct.
 

Why is this now being discovered?

Symptoms take years to show up. By the time signs are finally shown, patients are already in excruciating pain. They soon receive the diagnosis of only a couple months to live. The body can attempt to get rid of the organisms, but this causes inflammation and scarring. Through trying to fight out the parasites is what leads to cancer. By the time the first symptoms appear, it is usually too late for medicine to become effective.
 
There are over 25 million people around the world infected. However, cases are often not seen in the United States.

Va’s Response 

The VA should be able to use the connection between Vietnam service and bile duct cancer. But, this is not seen as enough proof to receive benefits. The number of claims received has drastically increased over the years, but a majority of the claims are denied. The VA rejects claims on the basis of there not being enough evidence of bile duct cancer caused by Vietnam service.
The VA is also rejecting claims if the illness was not reported in under a year after leaving Vietnam. Recognizing it so soon would be unlikely though because signs don’t show up for years after returning home.
 
During the testing of Vietnam veterans, of 50 blood samples tested, 20% was positive for liver fluke antibodies. While false positives are inevitable, it is an extremely high percentage.
If you served in Vietnam, getting tested early can help to prevent cancer. The parasite can be taken care of with medicine if taken soon enough. If not, they can live inside the patient for years while making their host sick, with no answers.

Have you served in Vietnam?

Blood work is the first step in showing a complication with an infected patients liver. Then by receiving an ultrasound to check veterans for inflammation doctors can tell if you contacted the parasite. After the ultrasound patients could qualify for surgery to prevent cancer.
 
The VA has reported only seeing a handful of Veterans with this disease; the rest go unreported. If there is a chance you may be infected, go to the VA office and get tested. Emphasize that you could have contracted it from Vietnam. Majority of these cases get dismissed because it is not evident where the parasite was contracted.
Send us an email if you think you might qualify for this type of claim!
Here is the real story of a Vietnam veteran who battled this disease for years before he finally got the VA to approve his appeal.

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