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Innovations in VA cervical cancer treatment services

As more women Veterans choose VA each year for their health care, VA continues to expand support programs. Implementing advanced cervical cancer treatments across the country is one such example.

Led by Dr. Haley Moss, Durham VA’s director of VA’s Breast and Gynecologic Oncology System of Excellence and gynecologic oncologist, VA is pioneering approaches that are reshaping the landscape of care for women Veterans faced with this disease.

While breast cancer gets more attention in the media, the VA Breast and Gynecologic Oncology System of Excellence is designed to meet the specific needs of women Veterans who report cervical cancer risk factors at higher rates than non-Veterans. In a 2023 study, about 19% of women Veterans with recent screenings showed abnormal results compared to 13% of women who were non-Veterans.

Each year in the United States, about 11,500 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed and about 4,000 women die.

Cervical cancer is a type of gynecologic cancer that begins in the cervix, the lower part of the uterus connecting to the vagina. It usually grows slowly and is mainly caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Fortunately, early detection of cervical cancer before it becomes fatal is possible. “With regular pap smear screenings, we can catch it early, and it’s often highly treatable,” said Moss.

Every VA facility has dedicated women’s health providers and women Veterans with VA questions are encouraged reach out to their local VA, the Women Veterans Call Center or visit https://www.womenshealth.va.gov/.

Supporting women Veterans with cervical cancer

While the number of Veterans seeking cervical cancer care at VA is growing, there are several new and expanding support programs that aim to meet the needs of Veterans faced with this diagnosis, including:

Breast and Gynecologic Oncology System of Excellence (BGSoE): BGSoE provides coordinated, integrated and compassionate patient-centered cancer care, including virtual and high-risk clinics, and it provides care coordination for Veterans who may need to navigate different health systems for their treatment.

Virtual Tumor Board: Multidisciplinary experts from across the U.S. come together virtually to carefully review individual cancer cases and discuss the best treatment options for each Veteran.

National TeleOncology (NTO): NTO brings world-class oncology care and services to Veterans regardless of where they live.

Cancer Care Genetics Services (CCGS): CCGS offers accessible cancer genetic counseling to Veterans, including personalized cancer risk assessments, interpretation of test results, and information about cancer treatment options and what it may mean for your family members if you’re diagnosed with cancer. Watch the CCGS video “Cancer Code” here.

Close to Me Novel Infusion Care Delivery Service: Close to Me provides anti-cancer therapy services at Community-Based Outpatient Clinics and patient homes.

National Radiation Oncology Program (NROP): NROP prioritizes hands-on care for all ages and all types of cancer at every stage, and it quickly adopts best practices that might result in shorter courses of therapy for Veterans.

Virtual Peer Support Program: This peer-led support group for Veterans with breast and gynecologic cancers provides a platform for support and discussion.

Empowering Veterans through education

In support of Veteran education, VA has produced an educational flyer to provide patients with vital information regarding VA’s cervical cancer treatment services. Informed Veterans can have more productive conversations with their providers, which empowers them during their treatment journey.

Veterans are strongly encouraged to talk to their VA provider about the need for different cancer screenings and what screening options are available. Visit My HealtheVet to learn tips and tools to help you partner with your health care team, so together you may work to manage your health. 

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