Buffalo, NY

Breast cancer awareness is important, but mammograms can save lives

In New York state, 83% of individuals who are recommended to have a mammogram are following the state’s screening guidelines, a percentage that’s been stable for two decades according to a review of state data by Univera Healthcare. That means a persistent number of individuals (17%) are non-compliant and putting their lives at risk. According to data self-reported to the state, of those who have not had a mammogram within the past two years, 92.2% had health insurance and 83.4% had a regular health care provider.

“Maybe we should change October from Breast Cancer Awareness Month to Mammogram Month since, while awareness is important, detecting breast cancer early with a mammogram can save someone’s life,” says Lorna Fitzpatrick, MD, vice president of medical affairs and senior medical director at Univera Healthcare. A mammogram can detect breast cancer at its earliest stages when treatment is most successful.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for every 100,000 women in the United States, there will be 124 reported cases of breast cancer and 20 deaths from the disease. In New York state, breast cancer is the most diagnosed form of cancer, with approximately 16,500 new cases and 2,500 deaths each year.

New York state guidelines recommend a mammogram every two years for individuals aged 50 to 74 who should be screened. Those who are 40 to 49 years of age, those with a family history or other risk factors for breast cancer, and those who have any symptoms or changes in their breasts should talk to their health care provider about the most appropriate screening schedule.

New York’s “Get Screened, No Excuses” legislation, signed in 2017, eliminated out-of-pocket costs and many access issues associated with breast health care and services, including mammograms (the law does not apply to self-funded health insurance plans).

“With so much attention given to breast cancer awareness, and so many barriers removed to getting a mammogram, there should be 100% compliance with screening guidelines,” says Fitzpatrick. “Sadly, that’s not the case.”

Mammography rates across the eight counties of Western New York average 78.4%, or nearly five points lower than the state average (83%) for individuals aged 50 to 74.

Western New York  78.4%
Screening rates by county:

  • Allegany  78.8%
  • Cattaraugus  79.1%
  • Chautauqua  81.2%
  • Erie  85.6%
  • Genesee  71.0%
  • Niagara  80.4%
  • Orleans  71.0%
  • Wyoming  79.9%

Source:  wwws.health.ny.gov

Says Fitzpatrick, “It’s great that so much energy is directed toward breast cancer awareness, but awareness needs to translate to action. Mammograms detect breast cancer early, when treatment has a higher rate of success and lives can be saved.”

Peter Kates, (716) 857-4485

Univera Healthcare is a nonprofit health plan that serves members across the eight counties of Western New York. With more than 500 Buffalo-based employees and a local leadership team, the company is committed to attracting and retaining a diverse workforce to foster innovation and better serve its members. It also encourages employees to engage in their communities by providing paid volunteer time off as one of many benefits. Univera is part of a Rochester-based health insurer that serves more than 1.5 million members across upstate New York. Its mission is to help people live healthier and more secure lives through access to high-quality, affordable health care, and its products and services include cost-saving prescription drug discounts, wellness tracking tools and access to telemedicine. To learn more, visit UniveraHealthcare.com.


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