With October being National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (and today is National Mammography Day), Gothamist turns its attention to the recently released Third Annual New York Medicare Mammography Snapshot, which revealed a decline in New York City screening mammograms.

The press release, which was issued by IPRO, a not-for-profit health care quality evaluation and improvement organization, revealed declining screening mammographies citywide especially among minorities. Mammography rates in the five boroughs were low overall, and ranged from 36.2% in the Bronx (down 1.5%) to 42.1% in Manhattan (down 0.6%), with a citywide average of 39.1% (down 1.2%). Black women across the state had a mammography rate of 37.8%, showing a 1.5% decrease from the previous two years' data, while the rate for whites was 48.4%, down 1.9%. In total, less than half of NYC female Medicare beneficiaries receive annual mammograms while less than one third of minority women do.

Breast cancer is the most frequently occurring cancer in women (excluding skin cancer) and is the second leading cause of cancer death in women. However, screening mammograms can detect disease in its earliest stages when it is most amenable to treatment. The American Cancer Society recommends the following screening guidelines for patients with no history of breast disease:

- Monthly self breast exams starting at age 20. - Clinical breast exam (CBE) by a health care professional every 3 years starting at age 20. - Annual screening mammography beginning at age 40. The third Friday of every October, this year October 21st (today!), is National Mammography Day, with many centers offering free or low-cost breast cancer screenings. To learn more about these screenings and to find locations near you, please call The American Cancer Society at (800) 227-2345 or the National Cancer Institute at (800) 4-CANCER.

More information on breast cancer and National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is available at the American Cancer Society.