Long Island Goes Pink: Nassau, Suffolk counties unite for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

MINEOLA, Long Island (WABC) -- Long Island is uniting for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, encouraging residents to join "Long Island Goes Pink" in support of the cause.

Breast cancer treatment, mammograms and other cancer screenings have been affected by COVID-19, and with support from local officials, corporate leaders and breast cancer supporters, the American Cancer Society is inviting Long Islanders to "Go Pink" by committing to screening, building awareness and raising funds for research and programs to support breast cancer survivors.

Research shows that breast imaging is down 62%, genetic counseling is down 26%, breast surgery is down 21%, and as of August, new cancer diagnoses are down 52%.

The American Cancer Society says the annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk at Jones Beach -- the largest walk in the US -- will be reimagined for a safe, socially distant way for residents to honor, remember and support breast cancer research during the month of October.

"We're going to call it a pink party, where we have some sponsors who are doing some really exciting treats for us," the American Cancer Society's Katie Goepfrich said.

Related: Long Island officials introduce new mammovans

Kicking off Thursday's event in her shiny pink shoes, Adina Perullo is just grateful to get people talking about breast cancer again.

"The world may be on pause, but we cannot pause," the 36-year-old survivor from Levittown said.

And she knows all too well what that's like. She's BRCA2 positive, putting her at high risk for ovarian cancer as well, and her preventive hysterectomy was put on hold last spring because of the pandemic -- all after a frightening brush with breast cancer last year.

"I had an exam with my doctors in February, and then by June, I had a 3 centimeter tumor," she said. "It was stage 2, it was in 3 lymph nodes, so I've seen cancer go from nothing to something."

She is now scheduled for surgery on October 6.

Related: COVID-19 pandemic takes toll on cancer patients, survivors

Experts say the sad reality is that COVID-19 will also mean more lives lost to cancer, more patients afraid to see doctors, and resources strapped, angering advocates..

"How dare we put off and weigh one disease against another, and not give our people the treatment and the surgeries that they so deserved," said Geri Barish, executive director of the Long Island Breast Cancer Action Coalition and one of the American Cancer Society's first Reach to Recovery volunteers.

Funding is also down dramatically because of the coronavirus, with the American Cancer Society saying they're at risk of losing funding for 50% of their research.

County Executive Laura Curran also announced the "Glow of Hope" dome lighting to raise awareness of breast cancer across Nassau County.

Anyone interested in participating with the American Cancer Society's "drive-through" experience at Jones Beach can visit MakingStridesWalk.org/LongIsland for more information or to reserve a spot.

The drive through event will be held October 18 at Jones Beach Field 5. There is also a car parade, on Main Street, in Riverhead, for those who live further east in Suffolk County on October 24.

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