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Oncology Care in the Department of Veterans Affairs

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare system provides comprehensive medical services to millions of veterans across the United States, to include oncology care for a variety of rare cancers. The National Oncology Program within the VA estimates the VA diagnoses and treats over 56,000 veterans with cancer every year.

The VA recognizes its patient population has a unique set of risk factors, particularly for certain cancers resulting from environmental toxin exposures, and tailors its oncology services accordingly. As recently as April 2022, the VA acknowledged nine rare respiratory cancers as having a presumed service-connection if the veteran was stationed at a particular location within a specific time period. Providing top-tier care for these veterans is a high priority.

The VA oncology system boasts a particular strength with its focus on patient-centered care. It provides a team of medical professionals to support the patient, the patient’s immediate family, and the patient’s primary caregiver. Shared decision making and open communication among all parties is strongly encouraged. Moreover, the VA eliminates financial barriers to treatment as it provides veterans with subsidized (or even no-cost) cancer care. This holistic approach to treatment and reduction of barriers ensures a veteran can focus on getting well.

Because the VA has locations throughout the country, it is able to lean-in on its extensive network of hospitals and clinics. Regardless of a veteran’s location, a patient can access best-in-class treatments and expertise from premier physicians. The nationwide network, which also includes telehealth appointments, is particularly valuable to patients in rural locations. The ability to connect patients to physicians without consideration for distance emphasizes the dedication the VA has to its patients and their care.

The VA is committed to and actively participates in clinical research to advance the science around cancer treatment. It can then quickly and effectively implement its findings through various channels including medical centers and national program offices, such as the National Precision Oncology Program (NPOP). The NPOP, for example, incorporates cutting-edge findings to better predict which cancer treatment(s) would be most effective on a specific cancer by providing molecular testing that analyzes a tumor’s genomic profile. The approach to personalized treatment improves outcomes and provides a better quality of life for the patients as targeted therapies generally have fewer side effects.

The VA is continuously working to improve the quality of oncology care to veterans. By collaborating with academic medical centers and other healthcare institutions, it is able to share expertise, conduct joint research, and expand access to specialized cancer care. VA's dedication to patient-centered care position it to continue delivering exceptional oncology care to those it serves.


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