New York State Department of Health Recognizes October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Department Helps Raise Awareness and Promote Regular Screenings for Early Detection

One in Eight Women Will Develop Breast Cancer in Their Lifetime

Mammograms Are the Best Way to Find Breast Cancer Early

ALBANY, N.Y. (October 3, 2023) - The New York State Department of Health recognizes Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an educational campaign to raise awareness and to promote regular screening and early detection of this disease. Each year, individuals, businesses, and communities come together to show their support for the many people affected by breast cancer, including those with metastatic breast cancer.

"While October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we need to raise awareness about the steps to detect breast cancer early," State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. "If you have a family history of breast cancer, consider asking your doctor about tests for inherited changes (mutations) to certain genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, which increases risk for breast and ovarian cancer."

State Health Acting Executive Deputy Commissioner Johanne Morne said, "As a breast cancer survivor, I am one of many New Yorkers whose lives have been impacted by a breast cancer diagnosis. We urge New Yorkers to take the steps to detect breast cancer early. Knowing the warning signs, practicing self-exams, getting a mammogram, and routinely seeing your clinical provider are a few steps you can take for early detection."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), besides skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among U.S. and New York women. One in eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime, and in New York State, nearly 16,700 new cases and 2,500 deaths from breast cancer are recorded each year. Risk of breast cancer increases with age and varies across racial groups. Black females are more likely to have breast cancer diagnosed at an advanced stage and die from the disease.

Males also get breast cancer however it is very rare. About 1 in every 100 breast cancers diagnosed in the U.S. is found in males. Most breast cancers are found in females who are 50 years old or older, but breast cancer also affects younger women.

Mammograms are the best way to find breast cancer early, when it may be easier to treat and before there are any signs or symptoms of a problem. New York State has some of the most aggressive laws to remove financial barriers to mammography. New Yorkers with health insurance policies covered by NYS law do not have to pay any out-of-pocket costs for breast cancer screening and diagnostic imaging (

For individuals who do not have health insurance, the New York State Cancer Services Program (CSP) offers free breast cancer screening and diagnostics services to eligible individuals. Call (866) 442-2262 to find a CSP near you.

There are different symptoms of breast cancer and some people have no symptoms at all, especially in the early stages. If you have any signs, see your doctor right away. Symptoms may include:

  • Any change in the size or the shape of the breast.
  • Pain in any area of the breast.
  • Nipple discharge other than breast milk (including blood).
  • A new lump in the breast or underarm.

All cisgender women, persons assigned female at birth (including transgender men and nonbinary persons), and transwomen who currently use or have taken hormones should be aware of their personal risk for breast cancer and decide, with their health care provider, when to start screening. The National LGBT Cancer Network provides information about breast cancer risk, screening, and survivorship support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, questioning, intersex, and asexual (LGBTQIA+) individuals.

In addition to age, factors that may affect your chance of getting breast cancer include:

  • Genetic mutations. Inherited changes (mutations) to certain genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 increase risk for breast and ovarian cancer.
  • Reproductive history. Starting menstrual periods before age 12 and starting menopause after age 55 expose people to hormones longer, raising their risk of getting breast cancer.
  • Having dense breasts. Dense breasts have more connective tissue than fatty tissue, which can sometimes make it hard to see tumors on a mammogram. Having dense breasts can increase the risk for breast cancer.
  • Personal history of breast cancer or certain non-cancerous breast diseases. Having had breast cancer increases the likelihood of getting breast cancer a second time. Some non-cancerous breast diseases such as atypical ductal hyperplasia or lobular carcinoma in situ are associated with a higher risk of getting breast cancer.
  • Family history of breast or ovarian cancer. Having close relatives (parents, siblings, children) who have had breast or ovarian cancer raises risk.
  • Previous treatment using radiation therapy. Having had radiation therapy to the chest or breasts (for instance, treatment of Hodgkin's lymphoma) before age 30 increases risk of getting breast cancer later in life.
  • Exposure to the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES). DES was given to some pregnant individuals in the U.S. between 1940 and 1971 to prevent miscarriage. Those who took DES or who have a mother who was treated with DES may have a higher risk of getting breast cancer.
  • Taking hormones. Some forms of hormone replacement therapy (those that include both estrogen and progesterone) taken during menopause can raise risk for breast cancer when taken for more than five years. Certain oral contraceptives (birth control pills) also have been found to raise breast cancer risk.
  • Reproductive history. Having the first pregnancy after age 30, not breastfeeding, and never having a full-term pregnancy can raise breast cancer risk.

Actions to take to help lower breast cancer risk include the following:

  • Keep a healthy weight and exercise regularly.
  • Choose not to drink alcohol, or drink alcohol in moderation.
  • If you are taking hormone replacement therapy or birth control pills, ask your doctor about the risks.
  • Breastfeed your children, if possible.

Research suggests that other factors such as smoking, being exposed to chemicals that can cause cancer, and changes in other hormones due to night shift working also may increase breast cancer risk.

The NYS Department of Health remains committed to removing barriers to breast cancer screening and communicating the importance of routine screening. In addition to the Cancer Services Program, the Community Cancer Prevention in Action program works with NYS employers to implement workplace policies to provide employees with paid time off for cancer screening. The New York State Cancer Consortium is a network of more than 300 organizations working together to reduce the burden of cancer through strategies that promote cancer prevention, education, and screening.

The Department closely monitors screening behaviors in NYS to identify disparities and the need to focus education and services to individuals not up to date with cancer screening.

A recent report found that:

  • An estimated 78.2% of females 50 to 74 years were up to date with screening recommendations, declining from prior years, and falling below the Healthy People 2030 objective of 80.5% for the first time since 2016.
  • The decrease in reported screening is consistent with national findings and is likely due to health care disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Disparities in reported screening were seen among those with the lowest household income, without health insurance, without a regular health care provider, and among those with a disability.
  • Significant differences in reported screening were also seen by known risk factors for breast cancer including lack of physical activity and smoking.
  • Of those who reported not having received a mammogram within the past two years, 95.2% (an estimated 500,600 females) were insured and 90.9% (an estimated 495,100 females) had a regular health care provider (data not shown), representing missed opportunities for screening.

To find a nearby screening location, visit New York's Cancer Services Program.

More information on breast cancer, including treatment and resources, can be found here.