LONG ISLAND, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Monday marks the beginning of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Breast cancer survivors and their loved ones work to reduce the toll the diseases takes. One Nassau County group says awareness is not enough.

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They say awareness is just the first step, but knowing about the disease isn’t all that helpful if a woman doesn’t have timely access to screening and quality cancer care.

That’s why Nassau University Medical Center teamed up with the Long Island Breast Cancer Action Coalition Monday to promote preventative screenings.

“There are so many young girls who exercise eat right and they don’t have family history, that they’re not gonna get it. Not true. They need the awareness to go for a mammogram, do self-exam, get clinical exams from the doctor,” cancer survivor Lorraine Pace said.

It was a gathering of doctors, politicians, and survivors at Nassau University Medical Center. The event marked several milestones in the battle against breast cancer. One was former Senator Al D’Amato’s role 20 years ago in passing federal legislation mandating insurance plans cover mammograms.

“The legislation made sure that more women had access to tests in the first place and this van, goes around to all of our communities in Nassau County and gives women, lower income women, all women, access to early detection,” Laura Curran, the Nassau County Executive said.

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The van Curran touted is a mobile mammography unit that was dedicated and named for Geri Barish, the three-time breast cancer survivor and activist who helped found 1-in-9 – the Long Island Breast Cancer Action Coalition.

(Credit: CBS2)

Her goal is to make sure her namesake van goes to where it’s most needed – to the under-served communities of Nassau County.

“If we can get into the little corners of the world where they can’t get here, we can get them info, we can save lives, lots of lives,” Geri Barish explained.

That’s also the goal of the medical center, whose chairman realizes that access to care needs to be the mission of a public hospital.

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“We go into under-served communities, where all too often cancer is detected much later than it should be, because there isn’t adequate access to outstanding medical care, so the sooner we can get into communities, do a mammography, do an MRI… the better the chance a patient has,” George Tsunis of Nassau County Medical Center.