Woman holding a pink bow in her hand for breast cancer prevention.

The SERVICE Act: Learn More About VA’s Expanded Breast Cancer Resources

According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the second most common cancer among American women and will affect one in every eight women in her lifetime. For many women, this means you’ve had your own experience with breast cancer, or you’ve shared in the experience of a close family member or friend.

Make sure you understand your risk for breast cancer and access the screenings, support and services you deserve.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) understands how widespread the impact of breast cancer is and how important early detection and high-quality care can be to saving lives. The SERVICE Act, signed into law on June 7, 2022, expands VA’s breast cancer resources to include risk assessments and clinically appropriate mammograms to women Veterans who have experienced toxic exposure.

Learn more about the SERVICE Act and what it means for you, as well as important information on risk factors and the need for early detection.

The SERVICE Act and What It Means for You

The Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas Supporting Expanded Review for Veterans in Combat Environment, or SERVICE Act, expands breast cancer screening eligibility for Veterans and ensures research continues to advance knowledge of toxic exposures and breast cancer.

Dr. Thomas was a Marine Corps Veteran who deployed to Iraq in 2005. While there, she was exposed daily to a burn pit on base, and in 2018, she was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. She died on April 5, 2022. Although no direct link has been found between toxic exposure and breast cancer, VA is concerned about tragic cases like this and continues to support research and offer availability to important resources.

The SERVICE Act expands eligibility for clinically appropriate mammograms to Veterans of any age who deployed to certain locations, such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Saudi Arabia and more, who may have an elevated risk of breast cancer due to toxic exposure. Find a full list of the locations, as well as the specific time periods, included in the SERVICE Act.

This means Veterans under the age of 40, who were not previously included in VA’s mammography screening policy, may be eligible for breast cancer risk assessment and mammography screening if a risk for breast cancer is found.

How Can I Determine My Risk for Breast Cancer?

Young woman is having a mammography examination.VA follows the screening guidelines used by the American Cancer Society for women who are at average risk for breast cancer, including:

  • Women between 40-44 have the option to start screening with a mammogram every year.
  • Women between 45-54 should get mammograms every year.
  • Women 55 and older can switch to a mammogram every other year or continue with yearly mammograms.

However, there are some women who are at increased risk for developing breast cancer who may need to follow different guidelines. Risk factors include:

  • A strong family history of breast cancer
  • A personal history of breast cancer
  • A genetic mutation known to increase risk of breast cancer, such as the BRCA gene
  • Chest radiation therapy before the age of 30
  • Dense breasts
  • Use of alcohol

Your age, race and weight can also impact your risk, so be sure to have a discussion with your health care provider about your individual risk level.

Toxic exposure, such as exposure to burn pits, could be another risk factor, although research has not yet shown it to increase risk. If you served in one of the locations and time periods listed in the SERVICE Act, reach out to your health care provider to discuss your risk level. VA experts will complete a risk assessment that considers your toxic exposures, family medical history and other risk factors to determine if you should have a mammogram.

What Are My Next Steps?

After you understand your individual risk level, you and your health care provider can determine the best steps to take, which may include a breast cancer screening. Getting regular mammograms is the most reliable way to find breast cancer early when it’s easiest to treat successfully.

A mammogram is a low-dose x-ray picture of the breast that can find breast cancer early on, before it’s big enough to feel or cause symptoms (like a lump).


Now, more than ever, VA is making it possible to get the care you deserve. Make sure you understand your risk for breast cancer and access the screenings, support and services you deserve.

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