Bipartisan legislation in the House and Senate would require the VA to upgrade its mammography technology, require studies into the availability of breast cancer screening to veterans, and authorize pilot programs and research efforts into the detection and prevention of the disease.
The Making Advances in Mammography and Medical Options (MAMMO) for Veterans Act (H.R. 4794 | S. 2533) “goes a long way in providing the necessary structure and oversight for improving and modernizing breast imaging services across VA’s health care system,” MOAA President and CEO Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins said. “MOAA is especially pleased to see attention given to addressing veterans’ needs in rural communities and/or states where VA does not provide breast imagining services or where cancer treatment resources are limited.”
“With the incidence rates of breast and other cancers being significantly higher in the military population across race and gender, the timing of this legislation is critical to the long-term health and well-being of those who serve and have served in uniform,” Atkins added.
If passed, the bill would:
- Require the VA to launch a pilot program providing telemammography to veterans in states where the department doesn’t offer mammograms, or other locations “where access to breast imaging services … is difficult or not feasible.”
- Upgrade VA breast imaging facilities to use digital breast tomosynthesis – better known as 3-D breast imaging – within two years.
- Compile a series of reports and studies, including the feasibility of studying genetic testing for the breast cancer gene among veterans, access to mammography services for paralyzed and disabled veterans, and an overall report on veterans’ access to, and quality of, VA mammography screenings.
The bill, introduced in both the House and Senate on July 29, has bipartisan support in each chamber. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), chair of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, introduced S. 2533 along with fellow Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Republican Sens. John Boozman of Arkansas and Susan Collins of Maine. Reps. Julia Brownley (D-Calif.) and Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa) are sponsoring the House version.
“The best way we can fight breast cancer is with early detection and top-notch preventative care — plain and simple,” Tester said in a press release announcing the legislation. “Our bipartisan bill will improve women veterans’ access to breast cancer screening and treatment, lead to earlier detection of cancers, and ultimately save lives.”
Boozman said the VA’s national presence makes it “uniquely positioned to be a leader in the fight against breast cancer,” and the MAMMO Act would build on progress from the Deborah Sampson Act, MOAA-supported legislation which passed as part of the Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2020.
About 700 women veterans enrolled in VA health care are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, a VA official said in 2020. Recent figures for male veterans weren’t immediately available; a study citing 2010 data showed 74 male veterans diagnosed with breast cancer, compared with 402 female veterans and more than 46,000 incident cancers in all patients that year.
Alongside MOAA, other military and veterans service organizations supporting the new legislation include The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
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