Breast cancer survivor now an advocate for preventative screening
November 21, 2023
By Yolonde Rocio
Public Affairs Specialist, North Texas VA
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Rhonda Allen knew the importance of mammograms. As a VA Cancer Care nurse navigator, she’s a staunch advocate for preventative breast health screenings, encouraging and reminding her patients on daily basis to make them a priority.
Unfortunately, in 2017, she failed to take her own advice. “I neglected to schedule my own mammogram for three years, and when I finally had it, my results were not good,” she shared.
Within days of her mammogram, Allen was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, a rare and very aggressive form of the disease. “My forecast wasn’t good, but I knew more than anything I wanted to live.”
According to the American Cancer Society, one in eight women and one in 100 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Breast cancer is the most diagnosed cancer among women in the United States and the second leading cause of cancer death among all women.
Early detection and awareness events at VA medical centers, often billed as Pink Out programs, educate Veterans and employees on the facts and access to life-saving preventative screening options
“We want to promote early detection by educating women and men of the early signs and symptoms of breast cancer, and the importance of mammograms and MRI’s,” said Tracey Payton, North Texas VA nurse and Breast Cancer nurse navigator. “Many of our patients aren’t aware VA offers breast ultrasounds, genetic counseling and testing, diagnosis and treatment.”
Employees of North Texas VA consider every week and month to be an opportunity to hold Pink Out awareness events that increase awareness and save lives.
“Continuously educating our Veterans, their families and our staff on breast cancer awareness is extremely important,” said North Texas VA radiologist Dr. Soume Foshee. “With mammography screening and other significant advances in treatment, breast cancer is not nearly as life threatening as it once was.”
Nearly six years out from her breast cancer diagnosis, Allen is a survivor—and an active health care system advocate for timely preventative screenings. “These Pink Out information events are especially important to me as a nurse and VA employee. The support we give and receive is important to many of us as we’re not just employees and clinical professionals. We’re also survivors.”
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