HOUSTON – The Biden administration passed nine bipartisan bills this summer to eliminate barriers that female veterans have accessing mammograms.
Due to the military’s increased risk of this cancer that primarily affects women, age, symptoms and family history don’t have to be the only factors to get screened.
Luz Cervantes has no family history and didn’t know her time in the Navy may have lead to an increased risk of cancer.
“I was supposed to start my mammograms at 40 and no family history, never thought, never imagined in one million years that I would develop any type of cancer much less breast cancer,” Cervantes said.
According to a study focused on Walter Reed Army Medical Center, military personnel is nearly 40% more likely to develop breast cancer than non-military people. One idea is that environmental factors are to blame.
However, Mahdieh Parizi said there is more to understanding breast cancer that scientists have not been able to figure out yet and there’s more research in progress.
“Looking at various environmental exposures, exposures during combat, so a lot of great research going on out there,” Parizi said.
For now, the recommendation remains the same, Parizi said to start mammograms at 40 years old.
Although she said, veterans coming to the Debakey VA can access mammograms no matter their age, symptoms, or family history.
“If they, you know, feel a lump, we’ll work it up the same day, we’ll perform the biopsy the same day,” Parizi explained. “Couple of days later or the next day, the results come back and we really work expeditiously with all of our teams to get the patient into treatment as fast as we can.”
“It’s phenomenal to me. I love the VA, I love the Houston VA, the staff, from the front line to the back line, everybody’s just wonderful,” Cervantes said.
Parizi said in the near future, the VA will be looking at ways they can screen women earlier (not with mammograms alone but perhaps with simple questions) to determine who is at high risk.