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First Annual Breast Cancer Survivors Summit Held On Long Island

BETHPAGE, N.Y. (CBS 2) -- It's a most troublesome trend: unusually high cancer rates on Long Island are among the highest on the East Coast.

On Friday, hundreds of breast cancer survivors held a summit to share their experiences, and look for answers, reports CBS 2's Jennifer McLogan.

They shared their stories of survival, those diagnosed with breast cancer seeking answers.

"One out of eight, one out of nine, one of us is going to have it. Was I surprised? Of course. Devastated? Yes. But shocked? No. Because we live on Long Island," survivor Joan Beder said.

Beder was cancer-free when she helped found the Adelphi N.Y. State breast cancer hotline in Garden City. With the latest announcements from Albany, the hotline just learned much of its funding has been slashed.

The news was met with anxiety at Long Island's first ever breast cancer summit on Friday.

"All my girlfriends, we get together, and ok, it's who's next, and it's actually happened to two more of my close friends," said Linda Ferrante of Old Bethpage.

Ferrante was a mom to two young daughters when she got word of her breast cancer.

"With the surgeries and chemotherapy, you didn't know if you were going to make it out at the end," she said.

Adding breast cancer is not a death sentence, Ferrante helped bring together support groups and doctors. Hundreds of survivors learned of new legislation mandating hospitals provide reconstruction options to mastectomy patients. Out of 100,000 women statewide 104 will get breast cancer, but on Long Island it jumps to 117.

Questions abound. The studies have discounted affluence, genetics, power lines and pesticides, as well as Long Island Rail Road emissions, drinking water and cell phone towers.

So what is it?

"I think it's only fair for the women of Long Island to know what are my options, what do I know?" said Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-Mineola. "Certainly to cut back on financing research and development is a terrible idea."

"There were four of us sitting at a table, and among us 11 cancers in four people," survivor Geri Barish said.

Survivors said they need support in their recovery. Fighting for a cure, they are lobbying legislators to continue funding breast cancer research.

Breast cancer survivors said early detection saved their lives. On Friday, they championed the need for screening and mammography.

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