VA talks a great deal about implementing comprehensive primary care for women Veterans. It’s something we’re committed to and something we’re proud of. For us, those words relay a promise to deliver the highest quality health care to every woman Veteran at every VA facility.

But for Rebecca Henderson, those words meant nothing in 2009 when she visited Louis A. Johnson VA Healthcare System (LAJVAHS) Women’s Clinic in Clarksburg, West Virginia, for a check-up. The only words that were significant that morning were “mammogram” and, later, “breast cancer.” On that day, Rebecca agreed to have her first mammogram because her provider—who told her about the state-of-the-art mammogram equipment the clinic had recently acquired—suggested it.

Comprehensive primary care means providing women Veterans with their gender-specific and gender-neutral care from the same provider at the same place, and when possible, at the same visit. VA’s initiative to expand this type of care to all our facilities includes purchasing equipment, such as mammography machines, and training primary care providers in all aspects of women’s health. Rebecca directly benefitted from all these efforts.

After they found breast cancer, the staff at LAJVAHS scheduled a biopsy for Rebecca at Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, West Virginia, and guided her through her treatments. Rebecca is now cancer-free for a year and a strong advocate for regular mammograms and for VA health care.

To me, that’s the promise of comprehensive primary care.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Read more about how VA delivers women Veterans top-quality care for breast cancer prevention and treatment, and find tools and resources to raise awareness of breast cancer in October and beyond at VA’s Women Veterans Health page.

Dr. Patricia Hayes is the Chief Consultant for Women Veterans Health at VA.

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Published on Oct. 2, 2012

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One Comment

  1. Cynthia K. Dias October 3, 2012 at 8:31 am

    It is interesting that you have sent me this, especially since my maternal grandmother died of colon cancer and my mother died from complications of breast cancer. I have been to both VA facilities (Orlando and Tampa) and neither have offered a mammogram or rectal cancer screenings. I am currently applying for Social Security disability as I have chronic back and neck problems as issues of arthritis continue to plague me. Since relocating to Tampa to stay with a long time friend who resides here, I found that the services at the Orlando VA clinic was certainly more pleasant than my recent visit to Tampa VA clinic. I was given an injection for back pain and the nurse practitioner did not even ask if I was driving home. By the time I reached the parking garage, I felt a little drowsy and disoriented and could not find the my car. I called my niece to come and pick me up (she had to leave her job to do so). She later (with the help of a friend) found my car in the parking garage and drove it home to me. The nurse practitioner (?) never asked me if I was driving home after the visit. All she told me was that she was giving something for the back spasms. She seemed very much in a hurry and never told me of the possible side effects. I was under the impression that she was giving me a injection of steroids which could be used as an anti-inflammatory.

    By the way, have been a registered nurse (since 1994) both here in Florida and currently hold a license in the state of Hawaii.

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