Early cancer detection screening are essential

Sen. Betty Little

Closing out my career in the state Senate this year is bitter sweet, as I have enjoyed and appreciate so much about the past 25 years in elective office. It has just been an incredible honor representing and advocating on behalf of the constituents of the 45th Senate District.

Having been involved in the development of so much public policy on so many different issues over the span of a quarter century, there’s a lot to remember, but one area I feel that has been most critical is improving public health.

For years as a member of the Senate Health Committee, I have supported new laws and funding for numerous services and state programs to improve access and emphasize the importance of early health screenings, including for cancer.

As COVID abruptly changed our lives beginning in March, many people avoided or were discouraged from accessing health care, as the entire system and public health officials scrambled to contend with the threat of widespread infection and our hospitals becoming overwhelmed. That meant people missed appointments, cancelled surgeries or put off bringing a health concern to their primary doctor or a health clinic. I write today as someone who could have certainly fit into the category of foregoing a routine test but, fortunately, did not.

In late July, I went for a routine mammogram. A few days later I learned that the test detected a lump. Even after knowing of the lump’s existence and location, I couldn’t detect it through a self-exam nor could my doctor. The mammogram was key. Thankfully today’s “state of the art’ digital mammograms found this cancer which, at my age, was treatable and curable!

In early October I had surgery to remove the small tumor, followed by radiation twice a day for five days. Throughout this experience, I’ve thought over and over: better me than my daughters or daughters-in-law; thank God for the technology that makes early detection possible; and, how enormously grateful I am for the incredible professionals in our health care system who are a glowing example of the best of humanity. We are so fortunate to have wonderful doctors, medical staff and health care resources in our region.

As some of you know, October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The Adephi NY Statewide Breast Cancer Program is a long-standing and excellent resource for those with questions about breast cancer. The program’s professional staff and more than 100 trained volunteers, many who are survivors, provide counseling, education and advocacy and are available through their telephone hotline (800-877-8077) and website (breast-cancer.adelphi.edu).

In past years as an elected official, I have been a part of public service campaigns to emphasize the importance of early screenings. Now, I speak from personal experience and I can’t begin to stress its importance. Put your health first please.

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