Editorial by Renae Kimble
Cancer Services Program of Niagara County
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is now one of the greatest crusaders for breast cancer screening in the nation since the announcement in May 2015 that his longtime partner, Sandra Lee, was diagnosed with breast cancer.
The governor has initiated a statewide "Get Screened, No Excuses" campaign that featured the 2016 Breast Cancer Ride by the governor, Ms. Lee and singer Billy Joel riding motorcycles June 27 at Citi Field - home of the New York Mets. There, the governor signed legislation that aims to increase access to breast cancer screenings and raise awareness about the importance of having a mammogram regularly.
The 2016 Breast Cancer Ride continued July 8 with stops in Albany, Utica, East Syracuse, the Rochester area and Buffalo. The last leg of the ride was July 13.
When cancer is discovered at an earlier stage, an individual has a wider range of treatment options to choose from and a better chance of successful treatment than if the cancer has progressed to a more advanced stage.
Women not diagnosed with breast cancer until the disease's latter stages require more invasive treatments to arrest, cure, stop or slow down the spread of this heinous disease. Sadly, those who are diagnosed later rather than sooner are also more likely to die.
Getting screened for breast cancer saves lives. While screening guidelines may vary depending on a woman's age and risk, mammograms remain the best way to detect early-stage breast cancer.
Studies have shown that the lack of health insurance is a tremendous barrier to regular mammogram screening. Screening is underutilized by women with no regular source of health care. Other contributing factors are a lack of transportation to and from the screening site, a lack of flexible screening hours and a lack of paid leave time from work for a cancer screening.
The expanded health insurance options provided by the Affordable Care Act, the New York State Marketplace and the Cancer Services Program of Niagara County, an affiliate of Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, have helped decrease the financial barriers many women face. These programs have provided affordable or free access to screening and diagnostic services.
Gov. Cuomo's breast cancer initiatives, which will invest $91 million to increase breast cancer education, awareness and screening access, give New Yorkers another option in the fight to curtail breast cancer.
These initiatives will ensure that breast cancer screenings will be even more readily accessible to all New York residents with the addition of the mobile mammography vans, extended hours for breast cancer screenings in area hospitals, public awareness campaigns, community outreach teams, one-on-one assistance navigating the health care system, paid leave for cancer screenings and venture capital funding for cancer-related research and technology.
New Yorkers are fortunate to have a governor who is using his bully pulpit to advocate for the residents of this state to get a breast cancer screening. Remember: Getting screened for breast cancer can save your life!
Renae Kimble is program coordinator for the Cancer Services Program of Niagara County, a service of Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center. For information about the program, call 716-278-4898.