October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a perfect time to remind women Veterans about the importance of mammograms and early detection.
According to the National Cancer Institute, there were an estimated 266,000 new cases of breast cancer so far in 2018 and over 40,000 deaths.
A more encouraging statistic is the percentage of breast cancer patients surviving five years after treatment: almost 90%. (For the years 2008-2014.)
Approximately 12.4 percent of women will be diagnosed with female breast cancer at some point during their lifetime, based on 2013-2015 data.
In 2015, there were an estimated 3,418,124 women living with female breast cancer in the United States.
What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer is cancer that forms in the breast when abnormal (unusual) cells turn into cancer. Breast cancer can spread to other parts of the body.
Talk with your doctor or nurse if you notice any of these changes:
- A lump or an area that feels very firm in the breast or armpit
- A change in size, shape, or feel of the breast
- Fluid (called discharge) coming out of a nipple
- Skin on the breast that is itchy, red, flaky, or dimpled
What if the doctor finds something wrong with my breast?
Mammograms let the doctor or nurse look for lumps inside your breasts that can’t be felt. If a lump is found, you may need other tests to find out if it’s cancer or not.
The doctor or nurse may take a small bit of tissue from the lump for testing, a biopsy.
At each VA Medical Center nationwide, a Women Veterans Program Manager is designated to advise and advocate for women Veterans. She can help coordinate all the services you may need, from primary care to specialized care for chronic conditions or reproductive health.
Woman Veterans who are interested in receiving care at VA should contact the nearest VA Medical Center and ask for the Women Veterans Program Manager.