I am writing to inform all Vietnam veterans about a potential health risk that they may have been exposed to while serving in Vietnam: the little-known danger from parasites.
My husband, who was otherwise healthy, passed away on January 20, 2006, from cholangiocarcinoma, cancer of the bile duct of the liver. It is very rare in the United States, but very prevalent in Vietnam and surrounding countries. There are two known causes of this type of cancer: from contracting hepatitis C and from ingesting a parasite from the water supply in Vietnam. My husband did not have hepatitis C; therefore, it was determined that his cancer derived from a parasite. I have received official notification from the VA that his death was service related, which is not something the VA determines without an overwhelming amount of evidence.
This cancer does not manifest itself until later in life, when you are between 60 and 70 years old. Once the symptoms occur, which usually include jaundice, it is very difficult to treat or beat. My husband was 58 years old when he passed away. If he had been informed that there was a possibility that he could have ingested a parasite while serving in Vietnam, he would have taken precautions to have his bile ducts examined, possibly extending his life. The parasite is long gone, but it left behind damaged cells, which developed into cancerous tumors in the bile ducts.
If you spent time in Southeast Asia and are having gastrointestinal issues for no apparent reason, please have your physician check for damage within the bile ducts. It may save your life.
Mrs. Edward S. (Pete) Harrison
Horseheads, New York