Suffolk officials, breast cancer survivors underscore importance of getting screened amid pandemic
With COVID-19 impacting cancer screenings like mammograms, officials are stressing that it's more important than ever to go in for annual exams to make strides against breast cancer.
"This is a disease that we can take care of. You don't have to die from breast cancer anymore, if it's caught in time," says breast cancer survivor Geri Barish, of Hewlett House. She is shining a light on Breast Cancer Awareness Month in Suffolk County.
"We really brought the awareness here to Long Island back in '89, and we've come so far," she adds.
On Friday, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone kicked off "Long Island Goes Pink" with the American Cancer Society.
Part of the kickoff involves lighting up the Dennison Building in pink every night for the rest of October.
"It is magnificently important because this represents years, I'm talking well over 25 years of hard work," says American Cancer Society's Pat Bishop-Kelly.
Bishop-Kelly has been at the forefront of Long Island's effort to fight the disease alongside those who are battling it, like Valerie Mortimer.
"I was first diagnosed with stage 3 cancer in 2010. I was treated with a mastectomy, chemo and radiation and thought I had the cancer behind me. Unfortunately, in 2016 I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer," Mortimer says. She says there is no cure and that is why she is sharing her story.
"We need to have a cure for all cancers. And especially this probably will be what causes my death," Mortimer says.
Experts fear many will face Mortimer's diagnosis as breast cancer screenings have gone down during the pandemic.
"People were not screened. I had patients that were put on treatments, maybe stage one, they didn't even know 'cause they couldn't do the surgery. They did a biopsy and ended up stage 3 or 4," Barish says.
The Suffolk County Health Department also plans to launch a new website this month that will be dedicated to breast cancer awareness.