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New York State Bill Makes Breast Cancer Screenings More Accessible

Sydney A. Braat

2016 Lucia's Angels Team. The organization supports women and families with late stage women's cancers on the East End. (Photo: Stacy Quarty)

Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. announced earlier this summer that the Assembly passed legislation to make breast cancer screenings more accessible and improve insurance coverage to promote early detection. The Assembly hopes to continually support New Yorkers in their pursuits of better health.

"Early detection is critical. This law will expand access to breast cancer screenings with no cost-sharing so that New Yorkers receive preventative care sooner and are able to act," said Assemblyman Thiele. "By making these vital screenings more available and affordable, we can help ensure more cases are caught and treated early."

Statistics from health.ny.gov show that roughly 15,000 women and 150 men in New York State alone are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. If doctors detect the cancer early enough, it can be removed with lesser consequences, however, most people are unable to do so as screenings in the past have been less accessible or too expensive. People have been compromising their health and the New York State Assembly is working to change this.

The passed bill will prohibit annual deductibles, co-payments and co-insurance payments for screening and diagnostic imaging for the detection of breast cancer. This includes diagnostic mammograms, breast ultrasounds, and MRIs. The bill also requires more hospitals and clinics to offer extended hours of screening in attempt to assist individuals that work full-time jobs.

Entrance to the Ellen Hermanson Breast Center at Southampton Hospital. (Photo: J Heatley)

"Detecting breast cancer early can make all the difference," said Assemblyman Thiele. "This legislation will improve treatment and save lives."

The staff at Southampton Hospital's Breast Cancer Center have worked tirelessly year after year to provide excellent care for patients. "We have always welcomed people for breast cancer screenings. We don't discriminate," said Marsha Kenny, Director of Marketing and Public Affairs at Southampton Hospital. "If you don't have insurance we will still help you. You will get the same help as anyone."

There's more assistance offered to breast cancer patients than the open door policy. Southampton Hospital also offers an extensive support service program. "There's so much more to breast cancer," said Kenny. "It affects the whole family, not only the mother, but also the children and the partner."

Susie Roden is President and Founder of the Coalition for Women's Cancers at Southampton Hospital. She also serves as Patient Navigator and Community Outreach Coordinator for the Ellen Hermanson Breast Center which works strenuously to help women at all stages of cancer.

Ellen's Run supports the Ellen Hermanson Foundation. (Courtesy Photo)

"The coalition was originally breast cancer coalition but then we've expanded it to help women with gynecological cancers as well. Our aim is to educate the women in our community about the importance of early detection as well as helping the women once they are diagnosed with breast or gynecological cancers," remarked Roden. "Working with the cancer services of New York State we offer women if they don't have health insurance or if they're under insured, a free mammogram, a free pap smear and a free clinical breast exam. Then, once they're diagnosed we help them physically, mentally, and spiritually. We help them pay their bills, we get them to their doctors appointments if they don't have the transportation, we have support groups, we do a lot of peer-to-peer counseling. Then, after treatment, we do a lot of wellness programs to keep them happy and healthy."

Roden is a 25 year breast cancer survivor all because she took a free mammogram. Her own personal experience has helped motivate her work in every aspect.

"If anyone says they can't afford it, tell them to call Susie because that is not true, they can afford to have a mammogram because I will get it for them for free," said Roden. "If they say they don't have time, come on...you all can find the time. We're open late, we'll work around your schedule, we'll get you in early in the morning. Women are the caregivers, so if we don't take the time for ourselves, how are we going to help the rest of the people in our family?"

Ellen Hermanson Foundation Co-Founder Emily Levin, an Ellen's Run participant, and Ellen Hermanson Foundation Co-Founder Julie Ratner. (Courtesy Photo)

Roden and all those who work to help cancer patients are hopeful this new bill will assist women across New York State. "This new bill is going to save wives, mothers, daughters, sisters. With all cancer, early detection is key and if we can take away every barrier, then we're doing a fabulous job," said Roden. "That's why people are so generous to the coalition because everyone knows someone that has been affected by the disease. It's not something rare."

The Ellen Hermanson Breast Center is located at Southampton Hospital at 240 Meeting House Lane in Southampton. For more information, call 631-726-8715 or visit www.southamptonhospital.org.

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