October is Women’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October marks the 18th anniversary of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time to remember that steps can be taken to prevent and treat this 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.

Early detection and screening is the key to defeating breast cancer. Thanks to a landmark law the Assembly passed 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 sponsored 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
  • Provide funding to community-based groups that offer counseling, education and outreach services to breast cancer patients through the Breast Cancer Detection and Education Advisory Council (A.6317).

Paying for early breast cancer detection can be difficult for women of modest means. Fortunately, there are increasingly more life-saving screenings available to women who feel they cannot afford to get a mammogram.

Here are a few helpful breast cancer resources:

  • New York State Health Department Web site at www.health.state.ny.us/nysdoh/cancer/center/cancerhome.htm
  • Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization at 800-221-2141 or their Web site
  • Adelphi New York Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline and Support Program at 800-877-8077 or www.adelphi.edu/nysbreastcancer/

I strongly encourage women to take advantage of the new laws that protect them from this horrendous disease. Early prevention and diagnosis, along with appropriate treatment, can play an important role in reducing the devastation of breast cancer. Please contact my office at 631-435-3214 for more information on early detection programs and support, as well as outreach programs for breast cancer survivors.