Vietnam veterans and their families are learning more about a possible connection between a rare form of cancer and their service during the war.
Anne Petitti told News 5 her husband, Mario Petitti, was diagnosed with bile duct cancer in 2010. Less than a month later, he passed away at the age of 61.
“We had all this stuff that we wanted to do, never thinking that this could happen that fast,” Petitti told News 5.
Soon after her husband’s death, Petitti started researching his illness and started learning about a handful of identical cases in Vietnam veterans.
“When I started there were only 20 cases and now I have 200 veterans and their families that have been diagnosed with this cancer,” Petitti explained.
Doctors have traced one of the causes to a parasite found in raw or poorly cooked river fish in Asia.
They’re the kind of fish that Mario Petitti ate his entire time in Vietnam, Anne remembered. She even found a handbook printed by the Department of Defense that tells soldiers that “the fish is good.”
Once Petitti made the connection, she had to submit her benefit claim to the Veterans Affairs office three times before it was finally accepted.
According records obtained by the Associated Press, 700 veterans have submitted claims for this type of cancer in the last 15 years. Of the claims submitted, less one-fourth were accepted.
Now Anne Petitti is working to help educate other veterans and their families about the possible source of their cancer. She’s also pushing for early screening for former soldiers who might not know that they’re at risk.
“It’s about helping others,” she said. “It was about the validation because my husband died because he was in Vietnam. If he wasn’t there he wouldn’t have had it.”