Syracuse activists spread word about increased access to breast cancer screenings in NY state

Jul 8, 2016

New York State has a new law that will expand breast cancer screening hours at hospitals and clinics and remove some insurance barriers. African-American women in Syracuse are trying to inform the community about the changes.

A 2016 report from the American Cancer Society finds that the racial disparity for breast cancer in African American women is increasing. The report says one reason could be because of inequalities in treatments and screenings. That’s why, Della Smith, a breast cancer survivor, is excited about this new law.

“I am aware of a lot of young people who have reservations about going to the doctor because of bills, it not being affordable, not knowing where to go or who to contact,” Smith said.

The new legislation eliminates insurance deductibles, co-payments and cost-sharing for screenings. Healthcare advocates came out to the Southwest Community Center in Syracuse to spread awareness about the new law, especially to young African-Americans.

Juhanna Rogers, the director of health services at Syracuse Model Neighborhood Facility, said extending the clinic hours will encourage more young people to get screened.

"For women under 40 I think this is really important," Rogers said. "Women under the age of 40 are being diagnosed with breast cancer, I know two people over the past year.”

Syracuse Common Councilor Helen Hudson thought of two sisters she knows as an example of people who could have benefited from the new policy.

“Both of them had been diagnosed with breast cancer," Hudson said. "Previous, their mom had died from breast cancer. But they were of an age that the insurance company wouldn’t approve it for them because of their age. I think that it’s great the governor has stepped in. It was a no-brainer, but sometimes it takes people in high places to make things happen for all people. We need to continue to encourage young women, especially black women, to go out and be examined and get screened because breast cancer is one of our biggest problems in our communities.”

The law has been heavily championed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose partner Sandra Lee was diagnosed with breast cancer last year.