Vietnam veteran seeks to raise awareness of rare cancer
A veteran from Valley Stream who served in Vietnam is fighting to raise awareness about a rare cancer that's being diagnosed in some vets decades after their service.
Jerry Chiano was 19 when he served in the Navy and went to Vietnam in the late 1960s. At the time, he ate fish from the local rivers and bathed in river water, without thinking anything of it.
A few years ago, Chiano was diagnosed with a rare and deadly form of bile duct cancer that's been linked to "liver fluke," a parasite found mostly in Southeast Asia.
Chiano had already battled throat cancer, linked to Agent Orange. That cancer was diagnosed 20 years ago, and is covered by his veterans' benefits.
But service members who have bile duct cancer say they're having a hard time getting their benefits. The Associated Press has found that most claims are denied, in part because it has taken so long for the disease to develop.
The U.S. government says about 700 patients across the nation have come through the system in the last 15 years. Many are diagnosed in the late stages of the disease. Chiano and his family want to change that.
"My doctor is an excellent doctor, but he doesn't know much about liver fluke," Chiano says.
"The doctors need to know about it. I hope the veterans do hear this, they do get scanned and they get taken care of the way they deserve," says Jennifer Paglino, Chiano's daughter.
"It's all about making awareness, so the VA will notify Viet vets they can get checked. Caught early, it's still a deadly disease but you can add to your life," Chiano says.
News 12 contacted the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington for comment on this story and is awaiting a response.