(AUSTIN) — October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM), Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, announced today (Monday). Since the program began in 1985, mammography rates have more than doubled for women who are 50 and older, and breast cancer deaths have declined.

“This is exciting progress,” Senator Zaffirini said, “but there are still women who do not take advantage of early detection and others who do not get screening mammograms and clinical breast exams at regular intervals.”

Women older than 65 are less likely to get mammograms than younger women, even though breast cancer risk increases with age. Hispanic women have fewer mammograms than Caucasian and African American women. Women below the poverty level are less likely than women at higher incomes to have had a mammogram within the last two years.

“If all women older than 40 took advantage of early detection methods, such as mammography plus a clinical breast exam, breast cancer death rates would drop dramatically, perhaps up to 30 percent,” Senator Zaffirini said. “The key to mammography screening is that it be done routinely. Once is not enough.”

More women than men are diagnosed with breast cancer, but approximately 1,500 men also are afflicted each year. Breast cancer is a disease that affects many persons directly or through someone they know and love.

“In 1997 I was proud to author and pass Senate Bill 217, which requires health benefit plans that provide coverage for a mastectomy to include coverage for reconstructing affected and unaffected breasts,” Senator Zaffirini said. “Coverage is subject to the same deductible or co-payment applicable to a mastectomy. I will continue to champion legislation for persons struggling with cancer and other medical conditions.”

Health issues for both men and women are top priorities for Senator Zaffirini. She and Senator Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, co-authored Senate Bill 258 (1997), which requires health benefit plans to provide coverage for early detection tests of prostate cancer.

Additional information about NBCAM is available via or from the American Cancer Society, 800/227-2345; National Cancer Institute (NCI), 800/4-CANCER; or Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization, 800/221-2141.

The National Breast Cancer Awareness Month program is dedicated to increasing public knowledge about the importance of early detection of breast cancer. Fifteen national public service organizations, professional associations, and government agencies comprise the Board of Sponsors. They collaborate to ensure that the NBCAM message is heard by thousands of women and their families.

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