Hundreds of health professionals and activists packed Friday for the second annual "Breast Cancer Summit," a place also packed with heart-rending stories and a message of hope.
The half-day conference was packed with doctors and legislators along with many people directly affect by breast cancer. There were literally scores of people with stories to tell.
One of them was 52-year-old JoAnn Pushkin, who describes herself as "a ticking time bomb."
The Dix Hills woman has endured seven surgeries, eight rounds of chemo-therapy and 30 rounds of radiation. She believes her cancer could have been stopped in its tracks had medical safeguards been available to her.
Specifically, Pushkin has what doctors describe as "high density breasts," a designation that has to do with the molecular make-up of the breast. Forty percent of women have them, according to studies.
And mammograms elude 40 percent of the tumors in women with this condition. The mammogram comes back negative, even though the cancer continues to grow undetected. That's what happened to Pushkin.
Pushkin is leading the fight for understanding of the issue. She is the Executive director of "Are You Dense?," an advocacy program designed to raise awareness among doctors, patients and medical insurance companies about the need for a back-up test.
And here's the catch: That back-up test has existed for years and would detect the disease in the vast majority of women with dense breasts. It's a simple ultrasound. Pushkin said most doctors understand this, but fail to order the back-up procedure.
State Sen. John J. Flanagan, R-East Northport, said he learned of the issue from Pushkin, and now supports state legislation to provide more information to women about the dense breast condition.
The bill, which enjoys bi-partisan support, is already enacted in Connecticut and two other states. Flanagan's bill would provide for patient notification of a woman's breast density and insurance coverage for additional screening if the woman's doctor felt it appropriate. It is co-sponsored by Ellen Jaffee of the Assembly. For more information about the recent legislation initiatives, click here.
"[Mrs. Pushkin] inspired me to support this," Flanagan said. "I'm confident we can get this through before the end of the session."
At least 50 booths were in evidence outside the Carlyle's ballroom, all demonstrating a wide-range of programs and advocacy groups for those suffering from the disease.
Flanagan was among the many state and local public officials attending the event, including Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano.