With the COVID-19 pandemic easing, health care professionals are using Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October to remind women and those with prior histories of breast cancer in their families to schedule regular check-ups.
MetroPlusHealth, a New York City-based healthcare and health insurance agency which offers eligible New Yorkers care at little to no-cost, has been encouraging New Yorkers to be proactive with their health, particularly after the pandemic when many people couldn’t schedule regular check ups.
“Many people during the pandemic did delay getting needed care as well as putting off screenings, and initially during the pandemic that was appropriate,” said Dr. Julie Myers, Deputy Chief Medical Officer at MetroPlusHealth in an interview with amNewYork Metro on Sept. 27.
“But now, as COVID rates are going down I think it really is a great time to come back in. One can feel confident about getting that preventative care and know that they are not at risk for COVID at the same time as they are getting their preventative care.”
Breast cancer screenings are non-invasive medical tests which check for cancer before signs or symptoms of the illness develop. These screenings are usually performed with a mammogram test, which is essentially a specialized x-ray performed on breast tissue to look for any signs of abnormality.
While the mammogram itself can be uncomfortable or painful, it is a very quick test which ultimately provides very quick results.
The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that people from age of 50 to 74 with breasts and are at an average risk for breast cancer receive a mammogram once every two or three years. People 40 to 49 can speak with their healthcare provider to determine when it is the best time to start screening, or if they should begin screening early.
For MetroPlusHealth members, preventative screenings are extremely accessible and health experts are urging the public to come get checked with some new incentives.
“All of our preventative care is generally free for members who have MetroPlus insurance so there’s no extra cost to our members,” said Dr. Myers. “And we also have a rewards program so members earn ‘points’ for making healthy decisions, including getting a mammogram. So you earn 150 rewards points which is a $15 value for getting a mammogram and those points can be redeemed for a number of different consumer goods. This is an overarching strategy for all of our members to stay well.”
If you go in for your screening and unfortunately receive an abnormal test result which does indicate breast cancer, MetroPlusHealth provides comprehensive care.
“MetroPlusHealth offers Coordinated Cancer Care to its members who need it,” Dr. Myers said. “For example, MetroPlusHealth Care Coordinators would assist members with making doctor’s appointments, getting medications and treatments, supporting and follow-up care, and answering questions so that they don’t have to do it alone.”
When battling cancer or any illness, MetroPlusHealth prioritizes the overall wellbeing of their patients with their comprehensive care including mental wellness services.
“Whenever we are engaging with our members for care management, we are always trying to assess mental health at the same time and a big part of that is checking for depression,” said Dr. Myers. “We also have a robust network of mental healthcare providers and we would be pleased to make that referral.”
While the thought of having breast cancer or needing serious treatment can be understandably very frightening, MetroPlusHealth workers and healthcare professionals are urging New Yorkers to come and get a quick check for some peace of mind or early care and to advocate for their health.
“For a lot of us, we are trying to do everything we can to stay well,” Dr. Myers said. “Some things take a little bit longer to have the positive payoff like changes to diet, changes in exercise – but getting a cancer screening you kind of have the immediate feedback and that’s a good thing.”
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), female breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer worldwide, with 17,800 new cases of female breast cancer in 2022 and 2,460 deaths in New York. However, thanks to early detection and improved treatment, the number of women dying from the disease has declined by 42 percent over three decades.
Unfortunately, disparities continue to significantly impact Black women, who are less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than white women, but 41 percent more likely to die from the disease, according to ACS.
Breast cancer screening helps to saves lives. Visit the ACS website at cancer.org for more screening information.
Additionally, to schedule a breast cancer screening or to learn more about MetroPlusHealth visit their website, metroplus.org.