Article Contributed by
Office of the Chautauqua County Executive
It is estimated that one in eight women will develop breast cancer during her life. Breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women in New York State. Each year in New York, nearly 15,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer and about 2,700 women die from the disease. These women are our wives, mothers, sisters, and friends.
In recognition of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, Christine Schuyler, Director of Health and Human Services is urging all women to talk to their doctor about breast cancer screening and their personal risk for the disease.
Breast cancer is most commonly found in women 50 years old or older. The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends a mammogram every two years for women between 50 and 74 years of age. Women ages 40–49 years old are encouraged to talk to their health care providers about when and how often they should have screening mammograms. Any woman, who is at high risk for breast cancer, as determined by a doctor, may need to begin screening earlier. Any woman, or man, who has symptoms or changes in their breasts, should schedule an appointment with their doctor immediately. While very rare, it is possible for men to get breast cancer.
“Each woman needs to be aware of her personal risk for breast cancer and make an informed decision with her doctor about when and how often she should be screened,” Schuyler said.
Although the causes of breast cancer are still unknown, there are some factors that may increase a woman’s chances of getting the disease:
Getting older – most women are diagnosed when they are 50 years of age or older
Having a first menstrual period younger than the age of 12
Starting menopause older than 55 years of age
Never giving birth, or giving birth to a first child after age 30
Having had breast cancer or some non-cancerous breast diseases
Having a close family member (parent, sibling, child) who has had breast cancer, especially at an early age
Having certain gene mutations such as BRCA 1 or BRCA 2
Being overweight or obese
Not getting enough exercise
Exposure to high levels of ionizing radiation to the chest area early in life
Long-term use of hormone replacement therapy
Even if a woman has one or more of these risk factors, it does not mean she will get breast cancer. And, women with few or no risk factors may develop breast cancer. This is why screening is important for all women.
Breast cancer screening is covered by the health plans participating in the New York State of Health. For more information, about health care coverage through the New York State of Health, visit the New York State of Health: The Official Health Plan Marketplace website or call the help line at 855-355-5777 or TTY: 800-662-1220.
Regularly scheduled breast cancer screening increases the chances that cancer is found in its earliest stages and the earlier the better.
“Great advances have been made in early detection and treatment of breast cancer, and many women diagnosed with the disease are living long, healthy lives,” said Schuyler.
Uninsured women who are 40 years of age and older may also be able to get breast cancer screening through the New York State Cancer Services Program. To find a Cancer Services Program in your community, a genetic counselor, legal services, or a breast cancer support program, call 1-866-442-CANCER (2262).
Visit the New York State Department of Health website for more information about breast cancer, including prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.
Chautauqua County Cancer Services Program assists with the cost of breast, cervical and colorectal cancer screenings and diagnostics for men and women who are uninsured or underinsured. For more information, call the local Cancer Services Program at 800-506-9185.