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Gov. Blagojevich announces major expansion of Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program          Send a link to a friend

Expanded program begins Oct. 1

[September 29, 2007]  CHICAGO -- Standing with cancer survivors, doctors, advocates and legislators at Mercy Medical Center in Chicago on Thursday, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich announced a major expansion of the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program, making Illinois the first state in the nation to make sure all women who need access to potentially lifesaving cancer screenings and treatment can get it. By expanding the program to all uninsured women, Blagojevich makes it possible for 260,000 more women to qualify for free cancer screenings and treatment, regardless of income. As part of his new "Take Charge, Get Screened" campaign, the governor made stops throughout the state Thursday to urge women to take advantage of the newly available free screenings and treatments to reduce breast and cervical cancer mortalities through early detection and prompt treatment.

"Every woman in Illinois deserves access to the basic health screenings and treatment that could save her life. Doctors tell us that breast and cervical cancer, if detected early, can be treated and stopped, but many women can't get the help they need because they can't afford a mammogram or a Pap test. Now, regardless of income, women in Illinois without health insurance have access to regular screenings through the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program," said Blagojevich. "And with the new Take Charge, Get Screened campaign, we're going to aggressively reach out to women and urge them to take time to get the preventative screenings that could save their lives."

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, and approximately 1,700 will die. But, when breast cancer is diagnosed early, the five-year survival rate is 98 percent.

Under the newly expanded program, the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program will now offer free pelvic exams and Pap tests to any uninsured women over the age of 35 and free breast exams to any uninsured woman over the age of 40.

Joining the governor at Mercy Medical Center in Chicago to advocate on behalf of women's health in Illinois were Debbie Williams, R.N., representative of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation; Jude Andrews, executive director of the Y-ME Foundation-Illinois; and Dr. Clement Rose, president of the American Cancer Society-Illinois.

"The expansion of the IBCCP program will help save thousands of lives through prevention and early detection," said Debbie Williams of the Komen Foundation and a breast cancer survivor. "I am very proud to be from Illinois today as the governor is setting the precedent for women's health for the rest of our nation."

"The women who are most vulnerable in our state are the uninsured. This program will help relieve worry from women who don't receive regular mammograms for fear of cost," said Andrews, of Y-ME-Illinois. "Now all women in Illinois can take care of themselves with greater freedom and ease."

Launched in 1995, the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program, administered through the Illinois Department of Public Health, has provided almost 183,000 screenings -- and more than 109,000 of those screenings have been provided since 2003 under the Blagojevich administration. Before the expansion announced this week, uninsured women qualified only if their incomes were under 250 percent of the federal poverty level, which is about $52,000 per year for a family of four.

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Beginning Oct. 1, more than 260,000 more women will be eligible for screening and treatment through the program. All uninsured women between the ages of 40 and 64 will qualify for mammograms and breast exams, and uninsured women between 35 and 64 will qualify for pelvic exams and Pap tests. On a case-by-case basis, younger, symptomatic women who meet the guidelines are considered for the program. The screening program is free.

This is the third time Blagojevich has made changes to benefit women in need of breast and cervical screenings. Previously, if a woman was eligible for the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program but was diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer outside of the program, she was not eligible for treatment. But last year the governor expanded the program to allow women who met eligibility requirements but were diagnosed outside the program sites to go straight into the free treatment program through the Department of Healthcare and Family Services. This gave women more choices and also avoided penalizing women who did not know about the program but who were screened and diagnosed by their doctor, community health center or other health care facility.

Uninsured women diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer will qualify for comprehensive healthcare coverage provided by Healthcare and Family Services as long as they need treatment for breast or cervical cancer. Women diagnosed with a pre-cancerous cervical cancer condition who need follow-up diagnostic tests will also qualify for HFS coverage to determine whether they actually have breast or cervical cancer. Health care coverage will include doctor visits, inpatient and outpatient hospital care, emergency services, prescription drugs, and more. Women who need treatment will pay modest co-payments for doctor visits, brand-name prescription drugs and inpatient stays.

Women can find out how to get breast and cervical cancer screening and treatment by visiting or by calling the Women's Health-Line at 888-522-1282 or, for hearing-impaired use only, 800-547-0466 TTY. Information on the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program and other women's health and programs is also available at

[Text from file received from the Illinois Office of Communication and Information]

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