ATLANTIC OCEAN — “My aunt passed away in 2008 from breast cancer,” said Lt. Nyasia Jenkins, from Unci, New York, assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) medical department. “It was detected late so there was really no chance for us to see her.”
One in eight women will face cancer in their life. Additionally, breast cancer has a 99 percent survival rate if detected in early stages and a 29 percent survival rate if detected late.
Lt. Cmdr. Samuel Douglas, Ford’s surgeon, offers a service in identifying breast cancer in the early stage for women aboard Ford. Douglas’ service is just one of many that Ford provides.
“There are a number of resources available aboard Ford,” says Jenkins. “There are routine health screenings, which for women in particular include breast and cervical cancer screenings, as well as routine health visits.”
Ford recognizes the importance of Women’s Health Month and Breast Cancer Awareness Month and strives to keep its female crew members a healthy fighting force.
“Our surgeon is doing screenings for women who may have a higher risk of breast cancer,” said Jenkins. “They can reach out to him to get a more advanced high risk screening or any other information they may need.”
“We are a force and must be taken care of,” added Lt. Sarah Alferos, from San Diego, assigned to Ford’s medical department. “Ford’s medical team is extremely equipped to navigate what you may need as a female.”
Alferos notes that roughly 20 percent of the Navy’s fighting force is comprised of women, making this month not only important to the Ford but the Navy as a whole.
“The month of October should be focused on certain areas women may not be thinking about too much, such as breast cancer, screenings, nutrition, mental health or fitness standards,” said Alferos. “It’s a month when we can focus on the resources available.”
Jenkins offers her advice to women regarding health, not only during this month but year-round.
“Take advantage of your opportunities for your own health,” said Jenkins. “Take control and accountability. If you think or notice something is wrong or out of the norm, come get seen. It’s extremely important to be your own advocate.”
Women’s Health Month and Breast Cancer Awareness Month are particularly important to the Ford namesake. Betty Ford, the United States First Lady from 1974-1977 and wife of USS Gerald R. Ford’s namesake, was diagnosed with breast cancer two months after President Gerald R. Ford took office. After fighting her battle, she advocated and inspired women around the United States to be aware of their health, just as USS Gerald R. Ford is doing during the month of October.
“It’s nice to know this ship can provide the capabilities for individuals, even if we are underway, to be seen and maintain their health,” said Jenkins.
The ship’s medical department has carried on Betty Ford’s legacy of advocating for women’s health, even while deployed.