Gov. Blagojevich urges women to register for free
breast and cervical cancer screenings and treatment
Expanded program began Sept. 1; call 1-888-522-1282
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[SEPT. 14, 2006]
-- As September began, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich urged Illinois women
who don't have health insurance to sign up for a newly expanded
state program that provides free screenings and treatment for breast
and cervical cancer. On Mother's Day, the governor announced the
expansion of the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program,
enabling up to 3,000 more uninsured, low-income women in the state
to be eligible for free cancer screenings and treatment. The
expanded program took effect Sept.1.
Women can find out how to get breast and cervical cancer screening
and treatment by visiting
www.cancerscreening.illinois.gov or by calling the Women's
Health-Line at 888-522-1282 or TTY (hearing-impaired use only)
800-547-0466. Information on the
Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer
Program and other women's health issues and programs is also
"When it comes to breast and cervical
cancer, early detection is the key to survival," Blagojevich said.
"When breast cancer is diagnosed early, the survival rate is 96
percent, and cervical cancer is also treatable if detected early.
Early detection means finding the cancer before you see the
symptoms. But unfortunately, for many women who are uninsured,
regular screening is not a realistic option. By expanding the
Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program, 3,000 more women will
have a shot at early detection, and for those who are diagnosed with
breast or cervical cancer, they can now get free treatment even if
they were diagnosed outside our system."
Since the governor took office in 2003, the state has given more
than 111,000 breast and cervical cancer screenings through the
Illinois Healthy Women program, including more than 82,600
screenings provided for nearly 42,000 women through the Illinois
Breast and Cervical Cancer Program.
Beginning this month, the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer
Program will screen and treat more Illinois women. Previously, the
program offered mammograms, breast exams, pelvic exams and Pap tests
to women at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, or
$40,000 for a family of four. The governor's expansion raises the
income threshold to 250 percent of the federal poverty level, or
$50,000 for a family of four.
To be eligible, a woman must be uninsured and between the ages of
40 and 64 for mammograms and breast exams, and between 35 and 64 for
pelvic exams and Pap tests. On a case-by-case basis, younger,
symptomatic women who meet the financial and insurance guidelines
are considered for the program.
"As a survivor, I know just how critical early detection really
is," said Mary Shoemaker, a 12-year breast cancer survivor and
representative of the Peoria Memorial Affiliate of the Susan G.
Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. "Timely breast cancer screening has
already saved the lives of countless Illinois women. By providing
this increased funding, Governor Blagojevich will be giving
thousands of women in our state a chance to survive the disease. We
thank him for taking this giant leap forward on behalf of women's
The most recent statistics show that 8,604 women in Illinois were
diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer in 2003. That same year,
2,057 women in Illinois died from breast or cervical cancer. It is
estimated that almost 9,000 women will be diagnosed with either
breast or cervical cancer this year.
An October 2005 study by the Cancer Intervention and Surveillance
Modeling Network Collaborators estimated that breast cancer
screening reduced the rate of death from breast cancer by up to 23
percent and found that treatment is likely to be more effective if
cancer is detected at an earlier stage.
"No one knows what causes breast cancer or how to prevent it, but
if breast cancer is found and treated early, women have a much
better chance of surviving," said Jan Costello, acting deputy
director of the Illinois Department of Public Health Office of
Women's Health. "In fact, mammograms are the most effective tool
doctors have for detecting breast cancer early and saving lives. And
cervical cancer is preventable and curable, which is why regular Pap
tests are so important. The Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer
Program reaches out to women who may otherwise not be able to afford
these important screenings."
Previously, if a woman was eligible for the program but was
diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer outside of the program,
then she was not eligible for treatment. The governor's expansion
allows women who meet the program's eligibility requirements but are
diagnosed outside the current program to go straight into the free
treatment program through the Department of Healthcare and Family
Services. This gives women more choices and also avoids penalizing
women who did not know about the program but who were screened and
diagnosed by their doctor, community health center or other health
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Approximately 425 Illinois women a month are receiving treatment
as a result of referrals from the program. With the expansion of
eligible women into the program and the entry of more women from
other providers into the treatment services, the number of women
receiving treatment is expected to double.
Blagojevich has made other significant contributions to promote
and improve women's health including:
Blagojevich has consistently made
women's health a priority, allocating $24.1 million in state
funding for women's breast and cervical health programs over the
last four years. This year, Blagojevich allocated $2.1 million
in new funding to increase eligibility for lifesaving breast and
cervical cancer screenings to women with incomes up to 250
percent of the federal poverty level.
Women program: The Healthy Women program has helped
women across the state who are losing their Medicaid eligibility
stay healthy and has promoted healthy births by providing
comprehensive coverage for reproductive health care, including
annual physicals, Pap smears, mammograms, screening and
treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, and contraceptives.
More than 214,000 women have been offered this program since its
inception in 2004.
health legislation into law: Last summer, Blagojevich signed
several pieces of legislation affecting women's health in
Illinois. The Ticket for the Cure is a new lottery game to raise
money for breast cancer research and services.
Senate Bill 12 requires insurance companies to cover
screening for breast cancer earlier in a woman's life if her
doctor considers her to be at a higher risk of developing breast
House Bill 3564 expanded and renamed the Penny Severns
Breast and Cervical Cancer Research Fund to include ovarian
Senate Bill 521 requires insurers to provide coverage for
ovarian cancer screening tests for women who are at risk. In
2004, Blagojevich also signed legislation creating a 12-member
Cervical Cancer Elimination Task Force to help educate the
public about cervical cancer and develop a statewide
comprehensive prevention and control plan.
Cancer: Beginning in 2003, Blagojevich funded the Stand
Against Cancer Initiative, a community outreach and screening
program targeting the hardest-to-reach minority women. It is
conducted by a coalition of neighborhood organizations, churches
and federally qualified health centers. In fiscal 2005, Stand
Against Cancer provided more than 17,000 breast and cervical
cancer screenings and reached more than 47,200 other women
outside of the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program
through educational programs and outreach.
and Cervical Cancer Initiative: In 2005, Blagojevich
launched the Hispanic Breast and Cervical Cancer Initiative,
which is closely patterned after Stand Against Cancer. Women
screened through the initiative who subsequently need diagnostic
tests are referred to local lead agencies for the Illinois
Breast and Cervical Cancer Program.
Illinois Wisewoman Program: A cardiovascular research
program, Well-Integrated Screening and Evaluation for Women
Across the Nation, is provided in both English and Spanish
languages in 21 Illinois counties. The project is targeted
toward women enrolled in the Breast and Cervical Cancer Program
and helps them reduce heart disease by leading healthier
Women's Health-Line: Increased access to services is
available through Women's Health-Line and other informational
resources. In fiscal 2006, the state-funded, toll-free Women's
Health-Line responded to more than 2,000 requests, referring
women to services and providing more than 223,757 free
educational materials to women and community providers. These
materials are also available through
[News release from the governor's office]