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Montana VA encourages veterans to access breast health services during awareness month

Screenings and early detection increases survival rates


Last updated 10/19/2021 at 7:50am

From Montana VA Health Care System

HELENA — With over 9,100 female veterans in Montana, the Montana VA Health Care System is encouraging veterans to be proactive with breast cancer screenings during October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Both men and women can develop breast cancer, though male breast cancer is more rare. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women after skin cancer and the second-leading cause of cancer death in women.

“Women are the largest growing demographic of veterans,” said Sue Calentine, Montana VA’s Women Veteran Program manager. “Women also have a 1 in 8 chance of developing invasive breast cancer. That said, preventative screenings are the best option to identify breast cancer and also increase survival rates with early detection. Early detection saves lives — localized breast cancer has a 99% survival rate if detected early.”

Breast care resources available through Montana VA include screening and diagnostic mammograms, breast ultrasound and MRI, genetic counseling and testing, cancer treatment, and more. Montana VA recommends regular breast cancer screening for women who are 45 years of age and older, though some women may choose to start screening with yearly mammograms as early as age 40. Women should talk with their VA primary care team about what is best for them and schedule their mammogram. Veterans can also contact Calentine at 406-438-1684 with questions.

Montana VA is hosting its annual Pink Out Friday, Oct. 22. The event features a health fair, walk and “pink out” photo booth where patients and employees wear pink and share messages of encouragement for women battling breast cancer. The event will promote awareness about breast cancer for both Veterans and staff.

Montana VA shares these screening tips for women:

1. Women who have a family history of breast cancer should speak with their provider to understand how often to get screened.

2. Patients should share any changes they notice in their breast health with their provider as early as possible.

3. Women can reduce their risk of breast cancer by maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, limiting alcohol consumption, and not smoking.

Montana VA provides healthcare to Veterans across Montana through a series of community-based clinics, the Miles City Community Living Center — Montana VA’s only nursing home — an acute care medical center, a nationally acclaimed sleep center, and robust telehealth services.  Montana VA serves over 47,000 enrolled Veterans across Montana — an area roughly 147,000 square miles in size. Veterans are cared for by a staff of 1,400 at 18 sites of care across the state.  One third of Montana VA employees are veterans.


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