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.