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Cancer Can't Wait: Screenings for Women

Fewer screenings mean fewer options for possibly life-saving treatment

A Veteran talking to her doctor about what to expect during her mammogram When the COVID-19 pandemic started, many elective procedures were delayed, like cancer screenings. While postponing them for a few months isn't too bad, it can get risky if it turns into a year. For women, you shouldn't delay your breast cancer and cervical cancer screenings any longer.

With many people vaccinated, it's time to go back to regular appointments. Learn what VA is doing to keep you safe and when you should get screened.

Changes to VA medical centers

We're making every effort to protect you. From using new arrival procedures to keeping a physical separation between everyone, you'll see many new safety measures at your medical center. You still need to wear a mask. If you forget yours, we'll give you one.

Getting your mammogram

During the pandemic, breast cancer diagnoses dropped by almost 52 percent. That means more than half of the estimated 280,000 cases in 2021 could go undetected. Breast cancer is already the second leading cause of cancer death in women. If you skipped your annual mammogram, it's time to make an appointment. VA recommends the following schedule for screenings:

  • At age 40: Talk with your doctor about the right time to begin screening

  • By age 45: Begin yearly mammograms

  • At age 55: Get screened every other year, or continue with annual mammography

  • At age 75+: Get regular mammograms if you're in good health

Checking for cervical cancer

Cervical cancer is one of the most treatable and preventable cancers if found early. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and delayed care, there could be almost 15,000 new cases in 2021. It's time to schedule a pap smear if you missed your annual screening. Here's the recommended schedule:

  • Women between the ages of 21 and 29 should get a pap test every three years.

  • For women between the ages of 30 and 65, it's recommended every three or five years.

My HealtheVet and your screenings

These screenings won't prevent cancer. But finding it early may save your life. Your mammogram results can be viewed in your Blue Button report under 'radiology.' Pap test results are also in your Blue Button report under 'labs and tests.' Veterans with a Premium account can view their doctor's notes. Talk to your doctor using Secure Messaging (sign in required) when you're ready to set up an appointment for either of these tests.

Remember: You can text the Women Veterans Call Center at 1-855-VA-WOMEN or chat online via real-time messaging.


Please vote in our unscientific poll. All responses are anonymous.

Have you discussed annual screenings with your doctor in the past year?