October Is “Breast Cancer Awareness Month”

Legislative column from Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb (R,I,C-Canandaigua)
October 2, 2009

October is “Breast Cancer Awareness Month,” a time dedicated to raising public awareness of breast cancer and the critical importance early detection plays in defeating this disease. Breast Cancer Awareness Month is an opportunity to get the latest facts on strides being made regarding prevention, identification and treatment, along with scheduling a yearly mammogram.

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), since the 1990s, breast cancer deaths have been declining largely due to an increase in regular mammography screenings, breakthroughs in treatment and new information on prevention. Unfortunately, despite these inroads, the ACS notes that some women are scheduling their mammograms later or are not receiving them on an annual basis. Even worse, some are not taking time to take care of themselves by failing to follow-up with their doctor after a positive screening result. That must change! Breast Cancer Awareness Month is the perfect time to stop, take stock and make time for personal wellness.

In some cases, breast cancer may also affect men. Even though it is a rare occurrence, men can get the same types of breast cancers that women do. The ACS estimates that 1,910 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in men during 2009.

As noted on its official website, www.cancer.org, the ACS recommends regular, annual mammograms and clinical breast exams (CBEs) for women 40 and older, along with a CBE at least once every three years for women ages 20-39. The ACS also recommends magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for certain women at high risk. Women at moderate risk should talk with their doctors about the benefits and limits of including MRI screening to their annual mammogram and personal wellness routine. Additional screening guidelines from the ACS to promote the early detection of breast cancer include the following:

  • Women should know how their breasts normally feel and report any breast change promptly to their health care providers. Breast self-exam (BSE) is an option for women starting in their 20s; and
  • Women at high risk (greater than 20 percent lifetime risk) should get an MRI and a mammogram every year, and women at moderately increased risk (15 to 20 percent lifetime risk) should talk with their doctors about the benefits and limitations of adding MRI screening to their yearly mammogram. Yearly MRI screening is not recommended for women whose lifetime risk of breast cancer is less than 15 percent.

Besides its helpful website, more information is available by calling the ACS toll-free at 1-800-ACS-2345 for additional details and answers to your questions regarding breast cancer.

Another critical resource in the fight against breast cancer is Adelphi NY’s Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline and Support Program, which is sponsored by Adelphi University’s School of Social Work on Long Island. For 29 years, this innovative program has been helping New Yorkers get details on how they can best safeguard themselves and their loved ones from the threat of breast cancer.

The Adelphi NY Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline and Support Program – available toll-free at 1-800-877-8077 – can tell you all about getting a low-cost or free mammogram, as well as answering your questions and concerns regarding breast cancer. The hotline is staffed with specially trained, highly knowledgeable and compassionate volunteers, many of whom are women who have had breast cancer themselves. The program’s official website, www.adelphi.edu/nysbreastcancer, also provides useful information on locating a local accredited mammography facility and what you can do to help prevent breast cancer.

For years, State Personal Income Tax forms have provided a voluntary contribution check-off box that allows filers to make a donation to New York’s “Breast Cancer Research and Education Fund” in support of breast cancer research studies and education projects. If you want to make a donation to help New York move closer toward preventing, identifying and treating breast cancer, consider utilizing this voluntary contribution option when filing your taxes next year.

This summer, I had the honor of serving as a co-chair of the Geneva “Relay for Life,” which helped raise public awareness of the many strides and breakthroughs being made in the fight against cancer. Relay for Life celebrated the courage of those living with the disease and honored the memory of those who had passed. I saw firsthand and up close, truly powerful and courageous individuals who are living proof that, even though many battles remain, we are winning the war against cancer. October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a tremendous opportunity to advance the cause of preventing the occurrence of this disease, strengthening innovations in the areas of identification and treatment, while enhancing health, safety and personal wellness by stressing the importance of annual mammograms and, most importantly, knowing the facts about breast cancer.

As always, constituents wishing to discuss this topic, or any other state-related matter, should contact my district office at (315) 781-2030, or e-mail me at kolbb@assembly.state.ny.us.