One in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime. While a 2012 study indicated that overall cancer incidence rates among men in the U.S. Veterans Affairs health care system mirrored those of the general population, it is important to understand your personal risk. The United States has an aging veteran population, and your risk of developing prostate cancer increases with age. Furthermore, veterans who were exposed to herbicides, such as Agent Orange, are also at increased risk. Talk with your healthcare team to understand your risk and make a plan for regular testing.
Healthcare for Veterans
The Department of Veterans Affairs provides health benefits and services for eligible veterans who participated in active military service. Some members of the Reserves or National Guard are also eligible for VA benefits. There are several requirements you must meet for eligibility, so it is important to contact the VA directly if you think you are eligible for health services. Coverage generally includes treatments, procedures, supplies, and services. Click here to visit the VA’s website and learn more about these benefits.
For veterans who are already enrolled in VA healthcare, the Choice Program allows you to receive healthcare within your community without impacting your existing VA healthcare or any other VA benefit. If you have been, or will be, waiting more than 30 days for VA medical care, if you live more than 40 miles away from a VA medical care facility, or if you face certain travel burdens, you may be eligible for this program. Click here for more information on the Choice Program.
Another healthcare program available for uniformed service members (active, Guard/Reserve, and retired) and their families is TRICARE. TRICARE is a major part of the Military Health System and offers an expansive provider network and services in both military and civilian healthcare facilities. Click here for more information on TRICARE.
Prostate Cancer and Agent Orange
Certain unique factors may put veterans, especially those who served in the Vietnam or Korean wars, at increased risk for developing prostate cancer. A 1996 report published by the Health and Medicine Division of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine concluded that there is a link between prostate cancer and exposure to herbicides such as Agent Orange, which was used during the Vietnam and Korean wars. Similarly, a 2013 study conducted at the Portland VA Medical Center and Oregon Health and Science University found that veterans exposed to Agent Orange were at an increased risk for both developing prostate cancer and developing more aggressive forms of the disease.
Veterans with prostate cancer who were exposed to herbicides during active service may be eligible for disability compensation through the VA. There are several eligibility requirements to receive these benefits, and it is important to contact the VA directly if you think you are eligible. Click here to visit the VA’s website and learn more about these benefits and services.