A Column of News & Comment by Senator James L. Seward

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. Nearly 277,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in the United States this year with just over 42,000 women expected to die from the disease. Today, there are more than 3.5 million breast cancer survivors living in the United States.

Approximately 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in their lifetime and 1 in 39 will die from breast cancer. 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.

According to ACS guidelines, women age 40 to 44 should have the choice to start annual mammograms, and women age 45 to 54 should have a mammogram every year. Women 55 and older should switch to mammograms every two years or can continue yearly screenings. Family history and other factors should be taken into account in consultation with your doctor. While mammograms can miss some cancers, they are still a very good way to find breast cancer.

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. Among the measures, a new law requiring health insurance companies to cover breast tomosynthesis (3-D mammography).

To help individuals whose schedules may prevent them from finding available appointments to schedule mammograms, New York also requires hospitals and their extension clinics that provide mammography services 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.

Employers throughout New York State (including New York City) are also required to provide their employees with four hours of leave each year for breast cancer screening.

You can read more about the specific New York State laws online at https://www.ny.gov/programs/get-screened-no-excuses. The website also includes information on insurance coverage and a link to search for screening locations.

Along with strengthening our laws, I have consistently advocated for state funds to help promote and protect a number of vital public health initiatives available to all New Yorkers.

New York State programs are plentiful and we are 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.

The Adelphi program has been in existence since 1980; its mission is to educate, support, empower and advocate for breast cancer patients, professionals, and the community. One feature that really sets the program apart from similar services is that many 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, https://breast-cancer.adelphi.edu.

Finally, one more valuable resource for all types of information is the National Breast Cancer Foundation at https://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/.