VA’s changes to women’s health makes access better

gettyimages 1316390 VA’s changes to women’s health makes access better

390487 01: (FILE PHOTO) Detail of breast cancer cells. Breast cancer is a malignant growth that begins in the tissues of the breast. Over a lifetime, one in eight women is diagnosed with breast cancer. (Photo by American Cancer Society/Getty Images)

By Jonathan Kaupanger

With perfect timing for Breast Cancer Awareness month, Veterans Health Administration is now following the American Cancer Society mammogram screening guidelines. VHA now recommends that women between 40 and 45 should get annual mammograms, then after they hit 55, every other year is suggested.

“It’s important for our women veterans to know that they are in control of their care and the care they receive from VA is consistent or exceeds care in the private sector,” said VA Secretary David J. Shulkin. “Adopting American Cancer Society standards gives veterans further assurances that their care aligns with other health-care systems.  Currently, 76 percent of women veterans age 40 – 49 receive mammograms through VA.”

And the machines used at the VA are top of the line too. 3D mammography is an FDA-approved technology that takes several layered images of breast tissue to create a 3D image of the breast.  And the upgraded technology and new screening guidelines aren’t the only changes VA is making to improve healthcare for women veterans.

One of the major obstacles in women’s access to care has been old facilities constructed without women in mind, which is why VA has spent over $390 million on exam room renovation and construction. Changes include adding gender-specific restrooms in private exam areas, exam tables repositioned so they aren’t facing the door, and locks added to exam room doors. The end result: more privacy and dignity for women getting healthcare at the VA.

The overall five-year survival rate for cancer is 89.7 percent.  With early detection–while the cancer is still localized in the breast–the survival rate jumps to 99 percent. Since 2008, more than 1,100 VA health care providers have had special training for women’s health, and it’s already paid off in a major way: access to mammograms has grown 62 percent.

This month is a good time for men to think about breast cancer too. 1 in every 8 women in the US will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. For men, it’s 1 out of every 1000 who will have to deal with breast cancer.  American Cancer Society has published a page on early detection guidelines, for both men and women, covering the warning signs of many different types of cancer.

To learn more about women veteran health care at the VA, you can go here.

Connect: @JonathanVets1 |

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