By New York State Senator Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, 47th District
There’s a good chance that you know someone who has been affected by breast cancer.
It is one of the most common cancers among women in New York, according to the state Department of Health. An estimated one in eight women will develop breast cancer during her life. Over 15,000 women are diagnosed with the cancer each year and almost 2,600 women die from the disease annually, according to the department.
It is no secret that a breast cancer diagnosis can significantly affect the lives of the women and men – about 150 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year across the state – and their families. Such a diagnosis can make these individuals change the way they go about their daily routines and live their lives.
While we continue to the fight to end breast cancer, we must ensure that women have access to the best methods of mammography available. That is why I am happy to announce that Governor Andrew Cuomo recently signed into law legislation I sponsored requiring health insurers cover modern 3-D mammography for breast cancer screenings.
The key to receiving the best treatment for breast cancer is early detection through cancer screenings. Tomosynthesis – or 3-D mammography – has proven to be a more consistent and reliable way of detecting breast cancer and reducing false positives than traditional mammography. But, unfortunately, most insurance companies did not provide coverage for this technology.
My legislation that was recently signed by the Governor requires insurers to provide this coverage to women who wish to use this technology. The legislation goes into effect 60 days after the Governor signed it, which means it should become effective near the end of January.
Lowville resident Joanne Dicob and Robert Pfeiffer, director of radiology at Lewis County general Hospital, played an integral role in helping to get this legislation off the ground. Pfeiffer and Dicob, a former oncology navigator at the hospital and a breast cancer survivor, initially brought the issue to my attention.
This legislation, meanwhile, is the latest in several steps that the state has taken recently to improve access and coverage for breast cancer screening.
For instance, as part of legislation signed by the Governor in 2016, 210 hospitals and hospital extension clinics are required to offer extended hours of screening for at least four hours per week to help women who have difficulty scheduling mammograms during the typical 9 a.m.-5 p.m. workday.
New initiatives also were put into place, including mobile mammography vans, patient navigators, community-based peer education programs and a public awareness campaign. The state also unveiled a text line that can help women find mammogram locations by texting “Get Screened” to 81336. After submitting their zip code, they will receive information about locations offering screenings with extended hours near their homes.
Breast cancer is a devastating disease and I remain optimistic that we will one day find a cure for it. But, in the meantime, we can do our part to help those who have contracted this unfortunate disease and hopefully help women and men catch it before it is too late