The Veterans Affairs clinic in McAllen held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new mammography unit on Tuesday morning.
“It came out really nice. There’s been so many people putting in so much time and effort just making the mammogram unit a reality,” said VA Women’s Health Manager Claudia Garza. “Today we were able to celebrate not only the hard work that everybody put towards our mammography unit, but we were able to celebrate this accomplishment and what it meant for our female veterans.”
The event featured some female veterans who shared their stories of survival through breast cancer.
“It was awesome to hear the stories of these women and hear their triumphs, hear how working closely with their providers and their teams really helped them, of course along with their families and their friends. We’re so thankful that they were able to come and share their stories,” Garza said.
The VA clinic is part of the Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System, which is comprised of seven clinics that serve South Texas through a series of hybrid clinic hospitals. The clinics don’t offer emergency rooms or non-ambulatory type surgeries, but they do offer other specialties, which now include mammograms.
The clinic is currently in the provisional certification period. For the time being, the clinic will only be screening female veterans until they pass the provisional certification period.
“We’re excited because the whole mammography unit has been several years in the making,” Garza said. “It’s been in the talks for several years, but there’s a lot of behind the scenes work that was pretty much led by our radiology department.”
A mammogram is an X-ray to help check for breast cancer. According to cancer.gov, there are two types of mammograms: screening mammograms and diagnostic mammograms.
Screening mammograms usually involve two or more X-ray photos of each breast to detect tumors that cannot be felt. Diagnostic mammograms are used to check for breast cancer after a lump or other symptoms have been found.
Symptoms of breast cancer include breast pain, thickening of the skin of the breast, nipple discharge, or a change in breast size or shape.
“We’re excited because what this allows is an easier transition to help our women veterans obtain those screening mammograms,” Garza explained.
Garza said that women as young as 40 to 44 year-old should have a conversation with their providers in order to get an order for the screening mammogram. She went on to explain that the American Cancer Society has guidelines that every woman between the ages of 45 to 54 years-old should have an annual mammogram screening, and women who are 55 to 74 years-old should have one every other year.
“We’re just excited because it makes things easier and it provides better access to care for our women veterans,” added Garza.
Women who are veterans or service connected are encouraged to visit the VA clinic and speak with the benefits individuals to see exactly which benefits are available to them. They can also visit www.va.gov for more information.