By Alexander Dworkowitz
U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and local elected officials launched a health awareness initiative Saturday calling for women to seek mammograms more frequently.
“Tomorrow is Mother's Day,” said Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Woodside) at the morning event at the Sunnyside Arch on 46th Street. “What we are here to say is that the best gift you can give your mother is the gift of good health.”
Most health professionals view mammograms, which administer an X-ray to the breast in order to detect a lump, as a crucial tool in reducing rates of breast cancer. Breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death among American women, killing almost 40,000 around the country every year, according to the American Cancer Society.
Saturday's event, which was attended by about 100 people, called attention to a recent report compiled by the City Council Investigation Division. According to the study, which was conducted in March, the average wait time for a mammogram among six hospitals surveyed in Queens was more than 10 weeks.
Elmhurst Hospital Center had a wait of 28 weeks, the longest of all hospitals surveyed.
“Women are waiting too long to get mammograms,” Gioia said.
City Council Speaker Gifford Miller (D-Manhattan) said women over 40 should make sure to get a mammogram at least once a year.
“Every year we can think of Mother's Day as an opportunity to remind ourselves,” Miller said.
Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Ridgewood) offered a different perspective, telling the crowd that mammograms can be “anxiety-producing.”
“I think we have to be honest. It's not the easiest test to go through,” she said.
Nolan said families needed to support women taking the test, accompanying them to the hospital.
Clinton, the final speaker, said progress had been made in the fight against breast cancer. She noted more and more women across the country are getting mammograms.
Clinton said she was fighting for legislation to allow mammograms to be fully covered by Medicaid.
“This is one of those real issues that we are engaged in a real struggle within Washington,” she said.
Clinton also called for increased government funding for better equipment, more technicians and breast cancer research.
Calling Queens “one of the most vibrant immigrant communities in the world,” the senator said many of those immigrants were afraid of being tested..
“Don't let any woman say they won't take the test because they are afraid,” Clinton said.
The gathering, however, was not without dissident voices.
When Clinton took the stage, one man in the crowd shouted, “Be a leader, oppose Bush. Be a leader; offer some opposition.”
The man was a member of Sunnyside Woodside Peace, an organization founded in opposition to war in Iraq.
With the war over, the group has turned its attention to pushing for the repeal of the Patriot Act. The federal legislation was written after Sept. 11 to broaden government powers to help fight terrorism. But its critics say the law's reliance on the federal registration of immigrants has violated the rights of the nation's newcomers.
Members of Sunnyside Woodside Peace hounded Clinton for voting for the legislation.
Alec Meiklejohn, a member of the group, said immigrants were less likely to go to hospitals and get mammograms because of the new law.
“Immigrants are afraid to go to the authorities because of the Patriot Act.”
Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.