Breast cancer diagnoses have dropped by more than 50% since the spring of 2020. That’s not necessarily a good thing. Early in the pandemic, hospitals and community screening facilities closed. Many women had their routine mammograms postponed or canceled unless symptoms of cancer were present.
VA medical centers, following CDC guidelines, have since changed room layouts, check-in procedures, cleaning processes and more to make the environment safe for Veterans. But what if a VA location doesn’t offer mammography services, like the VA Connecticut Healthcare System in West Haven and Newington?
VA Connecticut’s local community care office got the gears turning and rolled out an action plan.
“We refer and rely on our Community Care Network (CCN) providers to perform those services, but some providers are experiencing a backlog of mammograms due to the coronavirus pandemic,” said Kathleen Stewart, VA Connecticut’s community care officer and an Army Veteran.
Mobile mammography buses at VA facilities
“We decided to couple a VA Love-Your-Self Campaign with CCN local providers Hartford Healthcare and Yale New Haven Health Systems by having their mobile mammography buses visit our facilities for two days,” Stewart added. “Over 30 Veterans received a mammogram and OCC hopes to continue bringing the buses to VA Connecticut.”
Breastcancer.org reports one in eight of all women are at risk for developing breast cancer, and rates are higher among women of color. Dorely Roldan is the community outreach coordinator for Hartford Health Care. Roldan added, “That’s why you’ll find our unit at libraries and churches in those communities where cancers are being detected, or going undetected, and we target that community.”
“This is a fantastic addition to what VA offers,” said Air Force Veteran Britt Conroy. “I had a wonderful experience using the mammo bus. I was seen right on time. Everyone from check-in to check-out was professional and I was back in my car in 15 minutes, which is outstanding.
“While a mammogram can be uncomfortable, I don’t think this appointment could have gone any better,” she said. “I also appreciate the Love-Your-Self gift bag. I feel valued here and fortunate to get my care at VA.”
VA’s women’s health services are designed for the fastest-growing group within the Veteran population. The programs are high-quality, gender-specific, comprehensive and available where and when Veterans need them.
Apply for VA Health Care. Once approved, ask your VA primary care provider what the best health care options are for you at VA or in the community.
Pallas Wahl is a public affairs specialist for the VHA Office of Community Care.