SUNY Broome’s Women’s Institute and Jengi Reilly, FNP, of the Lourdes Breast Care Center will address the topic of Breast Health from 11 to 11:50 a.m. May 11 in Applied Technology Building Room 200.  The event is free and open to the public.

With breast cancer affecting one in eight women, with contradictory messages in the media and with no national law guaranteeing adequate screenings for the 40 to 50% of women with dense breasts, the program will include the latest and most accurate information.

It will address good habits for breast health, among them a healthy diet, exercise and the maintenance of a healthy weight.  Also covered will be factors such as family history that impact a patient’s risk of developing breast cancer.

Topics will include changes in New York laws in 2013 and in January 2017 that have improved access to breast care in the state. For example, 210 screening facilities statewide must now offer extended hours.

Patients often ask whether they really need mammograms. The program will address that question.

Additionally, according to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, 40 to 50 percent of U.S. women ages 40-74 have dense breasts. As the result of 2013 New York dense breast legislation, many women in the state have noticed that their mammogram results have let them know that they have dense breasts and encouraged them to ask their providers if additional screening tests might be useful for them.

For women with dense breasts, mammograms alone often fail to find cancers. In a 2012 study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association and discussed in Prevent, Survive, Thrive:  Every Woman’s Guide to Optimal Breast Care by Dr. John G. West, when 2,662 women with dense breasts were followed with mammograms and ultrasounds over three years, 110 new cancers were found. Of them, 32 were seen only on the ultrasound.

According to the Governor’s website, the law in New York now

  • Eliminates annual deductibles, co-payments, and co-insurance payments (“cost-sharing”) for all screening mammograms…
  • Eliminates cost-sharing for diagnostic imaging for breast cancer, including diagnostic mammograms, breast ultrasounds, and breast MRIs. [All useful in screening  dense breasts, per  Prevent, Survive, Thrive, by John G. West, MD]  As a result, women in need of tests other than standard mammograms do not have to pay any additional out-of-pocket expenses for these most common diagnostic tests.

While the language on the governor’s website appears to be all-encompassing, there remain some questions about whether this new law applies to all forms of health insurance carried by New Yorkers.

Patients should ask their doctors questions about what screening and care is best for them, and should ask their insurance companies about what is covered by their plans.

Amid the confusion, however, there is one certainty–early detection saves lives.  Join the conversation about what we all can do to prevent and to address breast cancer, regardless of breast type, socioeconomic status, or location in the U.S.

Kathleen M. McKenna

SUNY Broome Professor

Breast Cancer Survivor