“Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among women in New York State. Each year in New York, almost 15,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer and almost 2,700 women die from the disease. It is estimated that one in eight women will develop breast cancer during her life,” according to the New York State Department of Health.
We have just learned of the heartbreaking story of Beverly Hills 90210 and Charmed star Shannen Doherty, who recently confirmed that she is battling breast cancer. While many celebrities have announced similar life altering discoveries, Doherty’s case is unique in that she has filed a lawsuit filed against her former business manager for allowing her health insurance to lapse. The premise upon which the lawsuit is based: Early cancer detection is critical to one’s choice of successful less invasive cancer treatments.
According to media reports, Doherty was diagnosed in March with invasive breast cancer that had spread to at least one lymph node. She contends the cancer had spread while she was uninsured. Her lawsuit further claims that if she had health insurance at the time, the cancer could have been caught earlier and she would not be facing the likely treatment of chemotherapy and a mastectomy.
The basis of her lawsuit highlights what health care professionals and the Cancer Services Program of Niagara County emphasize time and time again – namely, cancer shows no partiality to the affluent, the disadvantaged or persons in between. However, a difference in outcomes becomes apparent with comparing early and late detection rates and access to care.
Timely breast cancer screenings – mammograms, breast examinations – are vital to the well-being of all women.
When cancer is discovered at an earlier stage, an individual has more viable treatment options to choose from than if the cancer has progressed to a more advanced stage. While screening guidelines may vary depending on a woman’s age and risk, mammograms remain the best way to detect early stage breast cancer.
When women are not diagnosed with breast cancer until the disease’s latter stages, they are more likely to die. In the case of Shannen Doherty and other women who fail to obtain an early
cancer screening, a much more invasive treatment is required to arrest, cure, stop or slow the spread of this heinous disease.
Studies have shown that the lack of health insurance is a tremendous barrier to regular mammogram screening. The expanded health insurance options provided by the Affordable Care Act, the New York State of Health insurance marketplace and the Cancer Services Program of Niagara County help remove that barrier by providing affordable or free access to screening and diagnostic services.
In addition to the financial burden faced by uninsured or underinsured individuals, several other factors act as impediments to those in need of appropriate screenings.
Some receive health insurance coverage but lack the ability to take time off from work to obtain their recommended cancer screenings. One solution would be for employers to provide dedicated time off solely for employees to receive cancer screenings.
I strongly urge both as individuals and as a community that we support efforts to
increase cancer screening rates in Niagara County. The case of Shannen Doherty is a wake-up call to all of us about the importance of taking charge of our healthcare outcomes by having
Even though there is a greater focus on breast cancer in women, I must remind men that you are not immune. About 150 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in New York, according to the state Department of Health.
The Cancer Services Program of Niagara County, an affiliate of Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, provides breast, cervical and colon cancer screenings at no cost for uninsured
and underinsured Niagara County residents ages 40-64. For more information, please call
Renae Kimble, Program Coordinator
Cancer Services Program of Niagara County
An affiliate of Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center