October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an ideal time to discuss the importance of early detection and mammograms. It is also a perfect time to highlight a valuable resource available in New York – the Adelphi New York Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline and Support Program.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the United States, aside from skin cancer. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), over 230,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed among women in the United States in 2015 with an estimated 40,000 women expected to die from the disease. Today, there are more than 2.8 million breast cancer survivors living in the United States.
The two most significant risk factors are being female and getting older. Most women diagnosed with breast cancer have no other known risk factors. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women (after lung cancer). While the overwhelming majority of breast cancer cases are found in women, about one percent of all cases affect men.
Women age 40 and older should have a mammogram every year and should continue to do so for as long as they are in good health. While mammograms can miss some cancers, they are still a very good way to find breast cancer. Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam (CBE) as part of a regular exam by a health expert, preferably every 3 years.
I have worked to update New York State laws on a number of occasions to improve detection and treatment of breast cancer while enhancing resources available to the public. This year, I helped win approval of a major new initiative that:
Expands Breast Cancer Screening by Eliminating Insurance Cost Requirements: This measure removes the cost-sharing (e.g. annual deductibles or coinsurance) requirements for screening and diagnostic imaging for the detection of breast cancer. Eliminating these insurance barriers will prevent women from paying out-of-pocket for breast cancer screening, including imaging for the detection of breast cancer, diagnostic mammograms, breast ultrasounds, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI);
Extends Hours for Mammography Services: To help individuals whose schedules may prevent them from finding available appointments to schedule mammograms, this bill requires hospitals and their extension clinics that provide mammography services throughout the state to provide extended hours in the early morning, evening, or on the weekend, in two-hour increments on at least two days, for a total of at least four hours each week. Facilities can choose between the following time slots to fulfill the requirements: 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday; and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday or Sunday.
New York State programs are plentiful and we are also fortunate to have another terrific resource, the Adelphi New York Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline and Support Program. The program is a project of Adelphi University and is the only New York statewide breast cancer hotline. Adelphi provides services to women and men of all ages, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and socio-economic status. About 4,000 calls are made to the hotline each year and another 350,000 people visit the Adelphi website annually.
The Adelphi program has been in existence since 1980 providing information, support and hope. One feature that really sets the program apart from similar services is that most of the volunteers who staff the hotline are breast cancer survivors themselves. What this means is that when someone calls the hotline, distraught over a breast cancer diagnosis and not knowing where to turn, she is immediately met with a knowing, comforting voice and a living example that breast cancer is beatable.
For additional information, call the Adelphi New York Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline & Support Program at 1-800-877-8077 or visit their website, www.adelphi.edu/nysbreastcancer.