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Women living in Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst are playing with their lives.
That’s according to the city Health Department’s newest Community Health Survey, which reports that 38 percent of women in the two southern Brooklyn neighborhoods have not undergone a mammogram test in the past two years.
That is much higher than the figure for all of New York City – 26 percent.
According to the Health Department, “Timely breast cancer screening is defined as having had a mammography in the past two years.”
Women in Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst are also forgoing cervical cancer screenings.
According to the survey, 27 percent of women have not had a pap test in the past three years.
For all New York City women, the figure is 20 percent.
Dr. Audrey Saitta, chair of Radiation Oncology at Lutheran Medical Center, explained the reasons why some women refuse routine cancer screenings.
“I think that there are a couple of issues,” she said. “A lot of the time, the patients feel that they’re fine, they’re not at risk. For cervical cancer, they feel that they don’t smoke so they don’t have the risk factors or they are too young to be screened.”
But women could be putting themselves at risk for cancer by forgoing preventative tests.
In these instances, when a cancer is finally found, “chances are that it’s not at an early stage that we can intervene and cure the patient,” Saitta explained.
Some women are just plain afraid of a potential cancer diagnosis.
“A lot of time fear keeps people away,” Saitta said. “But if they start their screenings earlier, they are going to have more of a chance of catching the cancer earlier, as opposed to not going and waiting for a symptom and then finding that it’s too late. By the time a symptom comes, it may already be advanced.”
Sometimes women don’t undergo screenings because they have poor or no medical coverage.
“Sometimes insurance companies give them a little difficulty,” Saitta said. “And a lot of the patients in our area don’t even have insurance.”
Many Brooklyn hospitals, including Lutheran, now offer free cancer screenings to those without insurance.
“There are so many screenings that are done by hospitals that are free, especially during the awareness months for the diseases,” Saitta said. “The American Cancer Society also offers a lot of support for the patients.”
“If [women] have any questions, call us at 718-630-7065. We have a lot of screening information about breast self-exams and we can update them on certain times that we are having free screenings. We also have a clinic here,” Saitta said.
After all, she noted, “Prevention is key.”
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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