VA Outperforms Private Health Care in Breast Cancer Screenings
WASHINGTON (Oct. 14, 2011)- The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is
recognizing Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October by asking all
female Veterans to talk with their health care providers about
appropriate breast cancer screenings, such as regular mammograms.
"The Department of Veterans Affairs has an outstanding breast screening
program," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "I urge
all women Veterans to talk to their providers during Breast Cancer
Awareness Month about receiving the appropriate screening."
Both men and women can develop breast cancer, though male breast cancer
is rare. In women, breast cancer is the second most common cause of
cancer death and the odds that a woman will be diagnosed with breast
cancer in her lifetime are one in eight.
The good news is that the overall five-year survival rate from breast
cancer is nearly 90 percent. If the cancer is caught while it is still
located only in the breast, the survival rate increases to nearly 99
A regular mammogram, or x-ray of the breast, is one of the most
effective ways to detect breast cancer early. VA excels at breast cancer
screenings, outperforming private health care systems, with 87 percent
of eligible women receiving screening mammograms. However, VA is
concerned that every woman get appropriate screening.
Veterans can talk with their VA health care providers. The VA directory,
www.va.gov/directory, helps Veterans find their nearest facility.
Non-Veterans can find local screening resources through the U.S. Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention's early detection program at
"Mammograms can detect breast cancer early, and early detection makes a
big difference in a woman's chance of surviving," said Dr. Stacy
Garrett-Ray, VA's deputy director of comprehensive women's health. "If
you're over 40 years old, talk with your provider about the best
screening methods for you."
In line with national guidelines, VA encourages all women between ages
50 and 75 to get mammograms every two years. Women ages 40 to 50 and
those older than 75 should talk with their providers about the risks and
benefits of having mammograms and make a decision based on their
individual risk factors.
Although rare, a younger woman can also get breast cancer. Any change
from normal should be checked out by a health care provider.
Breast cancer risk factors include getting older, having a close family
member with breast cancer, being overweight or obese, previous radiation
therapy/exposure to the breasts or chest, not exercising, and having
certain gene mutations. Having these risk factors does not mean that a
woman will develop breast cancer, but they should be brought to the
attention of her health care provider.
Although October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, VA wants women to
focus on their health all year round. For more information about women's
health topics, visit www.womenshealth.va.gov
Sean P Eagan
Former Chairman American Cold War Veterans