October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an ideal time to remind women to get 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.
In 2013, I helped pass a New York State law to advance our understanding of why geographic variations in breast cancer incidence exist. The measure (S.3768) allows funds from the Breast Cancer Research and Education Fund to be used toward breast cancer mapping initiatives. The fund supports research or educational programs which focus on the causes, prevention, screening, treatment and cure of breast cancer. Now, through this legislative change, breast cancer mapping initiatives are also eligible for critical grant dollars.
In 2014, new legislation (S.3817) that requires the New York State Department of Health (DOH) to establish an up-to-date website devoted solely to women’s health was signed into law. The website will provide crucial and timely information on health issues and initiatives for women. The site will also help raise awareness among women, and encourage the use of 22 preventive services now covered at no cost to patients under the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) – including breast cancer mammography screening for women over 40.
These new resources will certainly help supplement other ongoing efforts to provide women with vital information about breast cancer. Here in New York, one of the best resources available is 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.
A breast cancer diagnosis is frightening and intimidating, but with the help of Adelphi, individuals and their families have a supportive, compassionate resource to lean on and help beat the disease. To reiterate, there are about 2.8 million breast cancer survivors living in the United States today.
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.