October marks the 18th anniversary of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a good time to remember that steps can be taken to prevent and treat the disease. It’s also a time to celebrate breast cancer survivors and remember those who have lost their struggle with this deadly disease. Unfortunately, breast cancer has threatened or claimed the lives of far too many of our mothers, grandmothers, sisters, wives, daughters, friends and co-workers.
I am an advocate of early detection and screening for breast cancer. Thanks to a landmark law I sponsored last year (Chap. 554 of 2002), insurers must pay for annual mammograms beginning at age 40 – making New York the first state to offer this protection. The law further protects women by: expanding access to mammograms and cervical cancer screenings by closing a loophole in earlier laws; publicizing breast cancer detection and education services through a public education and outreach campaign; and requiring prescription drug plans to include coverage for approved contraceptive drugs and devices.
Even though we’ve made great strides to protect women in New York, there is much more work to be done. This year, I have supported legislation to:
- Guarantee Medicaid coverage of treatment for women diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer through the Center for Disease Control Early Detection and Prevention program (A.4519);
- Add six persons who have or have had breast cancer, and are active on community-based breast cancer organizations, to the Health Research Science Board to ensure breast cancer survivors have a voice in important policy decisions (A.4002); and
- Encourage more innovative proposals for mapping of breast cancer in the state and streamline collection of data on pesticides (A.3638).
Paying for early breast cancer detection can be difficult for low-income women. Fortunately, there are increasingly more life-saving screenings available to women who feel they cannot afford to get a mammogram. The Women’s Health Outreach provides free mammograms for women who don’t have insurance or coverage for this procedure, call (315) 435-3653 for more information. Another excellent option is the Adelphi New York Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline and Support Program at 800-877-8077.
National Mammography Day is October 17 and I strongly encourage women to take advantage of all the available services that protect them from the threat of breast cancer. Early prevention and diagnosis, along with appropriate treatment, has proven to be an important role in reducing the devastation of breast cancer. If you’d like to make a donation or find out how you join the fight against breast cancer in Central New York, contact the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation at (315) 472-6162.