Science

Vietnam Vets Are Dying from Cancer Caused By Raw Fish Parasites

By Sounak Mukhopadhyay , Nov 11, 2016 09:46 PM EST
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Vietnam vets are apparently suffering from a rare kind of cancer, caused by parasites from raw fish. The parasites are known to exist in poorly cooked fish as well. Now, the vets are demanding support. Here are some of the things that we know about the disease so far.

The Asian parasites, ingested in river fish, get attached to the bile duct lining. Later on, those cause scarring and inflammation. Someone, who has been suffering from such infection for decades, develops a rare kind of cancer named cholangiocarcinoma. Symptoms appear only in the latter part of life.

Such a disease is an unusual one, as this is one of those cancers that can be prevented. If the infection is detected early, it can be easily cured with pills. But, the same medicine is not effective if the parasites die and leave scarring.

Affected countries include Laos and Vietnam. But, not enough research is available to know more about the disease. The worst victim of this kind of cancer is Thailand. The northeastern part of the Asian country has 84 people out of every 100,000 is reportedly suffering from cholangiocarcinoma.

It is, however, extremely rare to find people who are suffering from this disease in the United States. The Department of Veterans Affairs' medical system has identified at least 700 cases where people are suffering from this type of cancer. The federal government is not ready yet to find a direct link between cholangiocarcinoma and the Vietnam War, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Nevertheless, the number is enough for Vietnam vets to be eligible for benefits. About 1.7 people in every 100,000 get diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma in the US. In some cases, surgeries may be an effective way to treat. But, the survival rate is around 30% for five years, gastroenterologist Dr. Gregory Gores told the Jakarta Post.

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