Every October we gather in various ways to recognize Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The observance is an international campaign to raise awareness about breast cancer. It also raises funds to research its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure. Breast cancer is one of the most common kinds of cancer for American women, after skin cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, an increasing number of women are diagnosed with breast cancer. However, more breast cancer survivors are also beating the disease.
Breast cancer death rates declined 40% from 1989 to 2016 due to improvements in early detection.
This year, we will recognize breast cancer awareness differently and safely, but one goal remains the same: educating ourselves about the risk factors, symptoms, and preventative measures to take against breast cancer and to improve our general health.
Mammograms most effective way to detect breast cancer early
Research indicates that early breast cancer usually has no symptoms and is typically diagnosed through mammography screening. Breast cancer screenings (mammograms) are the most effective way to detect breast cancer early, and VA recommends all women begin getting yearly mammograms by age 45.
Women may also choose to start screening with yearly mammograms as early as age 40. If there is concern for risk factors, such as certain genetic mutations or a family history of breast cancer, talk to a provider about being tested earlier and more often.
VA recommends that you take the actions below, once you have reached these age milestones:
- At age 40: Talk with your doctor about the right time to begin screening.
- By age 45: Begin yearly mammograms.
- At age 55: Get mammograms every other year, or continue with annual mammography, depending on your preferences.
- At age 75+: Continue getting regular mammograms if you’re in good health.
The latest guidelines apply to women at average risk (no known risk factors) for breast cancer.
VA leads the nation’s health care systems in providing mammograms to those who need them. In fact, VA offers breast cancer screenings along with other preventative screenings and women’s health services.
Training available for service women and recently separated women Veterans
If you are a service woman or recently separated Veteran, there is a training available for you to learn about the services available from VA. Sign up for a Women’s Health Transition today. You will also learn about the enrollment process and resources to stay connected during the transition process.
The training sessions are virtual. A live Veteran instructor will facilitate the training twice per day through December.
Sign up for a session today at: www.va.gov/womenvet/whtt/.
For additional questions about Women’s Health Transition Training, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit the American Cancer Society at https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer.html and the National Breast Cancer Foundation at https://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/ to learn more about breast cancer.
Charlie Brown is a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel.