Cancer-Stricken Veterans Receive Good Treatment at VA Hospitals

Military veterans who have been diagnosed with cancer can take comfort in knowing that they receive equal and often better care when treated in Veterans Health Administration (VHA) hospitals compared to traditional hospitals that accept Medicare.

The study, which was recently published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, showed better survival rates among older cancer patients who received treatment at VHA hospitals compared to those at fee-for-service hospitals.

The research was conducted by scientists at Harvard Medical School.

Cancer types that were studied include colon, rectal, lymphoma, bone marrow and lung cancer. Mesothelioma, a rare cancer caused by asbestos exposure that disproportionately affects veterans, was not included in the study.

Researchers monitored cancer patients between 2001 and 2004.

Positive Results for the VA

According to the study, older patients with colon cancer survived four years and one month, on average, while receiving treatment at the VHA hospitals. Patients of the same cancer who were treated at fee-for-service hospitals survived three years and seven months.

Experts attribute part of this disparity to screenings and early diagnoses conducted by the VHA, which often results in more available treatment options when a disease is caught early.

Non-small cell lung cancer patients noticed similar positive trends favoring the veteran hospitals. Non-small cell is the more common form of the respiratory cancer.

At the VHA facilities, these lung cancer patients survived eight months after their diagnosis, on average. Comparatively, at fee-for-service hospitals, the same group only survived about six months after their diagnosis.

“It seems like the VA is doing a good job of taking care of veterans, which is obviously a good story,” said Mary Beth Landrum, lead author of the study.

No significant differences were noticed among patients with lymphoma, bone marrow, small cell and rectal cancers.

Researchers stated that they couldn’t definitively pinpoint treatment at the VHA as the reason for increased survival. They acknowledge that it is possible that unknown differences among the two study groups may have existed.

Still, some experts cautiously acknowledge that the VHA hospitals appear to be benefiting cancer-stricken veterans.

The Department Behind the Success

The Department of Veterans Affairs is the entity over the Veterans Health Administration, which is tasked with caring for approximately 6.1 million veterans.

All American veterans have access to the benefits provided by the VA. A wide range of health services are available to former servicemen and servicewomen throughout a number of regionally-located centers. According to the VA’s website, more than 1,700 facilities exist across the nation to provide varying forms of veteran assistance.

Based on the findings of the VHA cancer patient treatment study, Landrum believes that some of the advantages that the VHA has over fee-for-service hospitals may stem from the VA’s reorganization of health care that took place during the 1990s, adding that it may be a model for health care reform for the nation.

Whatever the reasons are behind the excellent results at the VHA hospitals, all agree that veterans who served our country deserve the best treatment available.

tags: , , | May 23rd, 2013

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