Press Release

October 11, 2006


Actress/Activist Diahann Carroll and state public health director urge African-American women to get screened for breast cancer

Illinois Department of Public Health is Working with Communities for a Cure

CHICAGO, Ill. – Actress Diahann Carroll joined Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director, today to urge women to get routine mammograms and educate themselves about breast cancer. The veteran actress, who is a breast cancer survivor, spoke at the “Communities Working Together for a Cure” luncheon at Apostolic Church of God. As part of the Blagojevich administration's efforts to encourage more women to get screened for breast and cervical cancer, t he Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has been working with faith based organizations during Breast Cancer Awareness Month to stress the importance of mammograms and early intervention.

“Early detection of breast cancer can mean the difference between life and death and a mammogram is a woman’s best chance for detecting breast cancer early,” said Dr. Whitaker. “By encouraging women to get mammograms, we can stress the importance of early detection and save thousands of lives.”

According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the most common cancer among Illinois women. Almost 9,000 women will develop breast cancer and approximately 2,000 will die from the disease this year alone.

Although death rates from breast cancer have been declining in recent years, they are highest among women of color. With proper screening and treatment; however, the chances of surviving breast cancer are significant. Regular mammograms can significantly reduce the chance of death from breast cancer. Despite this, nearly half of women in the target age bracket have not had a mammogram in the past two years.

“Some of the reasons given for the high breast cancer mortality among African-American women include lack of insurance, lower rates of screenings, delayed diagnosis, follow-up and/or treatment, poor doctor-patient communication and perceptions of being treated with respect and cultural sensitivity,” said Dr. Whitaker.

The Center for Minority Health Services received $4.2 million in funding for the Illinois Communities of Color Breast and Cervical Cancer Initiative for fiscal year 2007. This initiative, which includes Stand Against Cancer and the Hispanic Breast and Cervical Cancer Program, works in collaboration with community and faith based organizations, and local health departments to provide outreach, education, and screenings, and supports a comprehensive provider network that provides appropriate follow up services. During fiscal year 2006 the Communities of Color Breast and Cervical Cancer Initiative provided women with more than 18,880 screenings and reached over 158,000 women with educational information.

Eliminating health disparities and improving access to health care have been two priorities of Governor Rod R. Blagojevich. Beginning in September 2006, Gov. Blagojevich expanded the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (IBCCP) to allow 3,000 additional uninsured, low income women to be screened and more than 400 additional women to be treated this year through the Healthcare Benefits for Persons with Breast or Cervical Cancer Act.

The Governor’s expansion also keeps eligible women from falling through the cracks if they need treatment. Previously, if a woman was eligible for IBCCP but had not actually enrolled in the program, she could not receive free treatment. The Governor’s expansion allows women who meet eligibility requirements to be eligible for free treatment even if they were not previously enrolled in IBCCP.

Gov. Blagojevich has made other significant contributions to promote and improve women’s health including:

  • Increased funding for women’s health: Governor 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, Governor Blagojevich allocated $2.1 million in new funding to increase eligibility for life-saving breast and cervical cancer screenings to women with incomes up to 250 percent of the federal poverty level.
  • Illinois Healthy Women program: The Healthy Women program, administered by Healthcare and Family Services, has helped women across the state who are losing their Medicaid eligibility stay healthy and 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.
  • Signed women’s health legislation into law: Gov. 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 cancer.  House Bill 3564 expanded and renamed the Penny Severns Breast and Cervical Cancer Research Fund to include ovarian cancer research. Senate Bill 521 requires insurers to provide coverage for ovarian cancer screening tests for women who are at risk. In 2004, Gov. 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.
  • Women’s Health Initiative Grants: For fiscal year 2007 $1.6 million in grants was awarded to organizations across the state to continue or implement IDPH health initiative programs. Those programs include: Heart Smart for Teens, Heart Smart for Women, Building Better Bones, Osteoporosis Prevention for Teens, Jump Girl Jump, Understanding Menopause and the pilot program Comprehensive Women’s Health.
  • Illinois WISEWOMAN Program:  Providing the WISEWOMAN cardiovascular research program 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 lifestyles.
  • Women’s Health-Line:  Increased access to services through Women’s Health-Line and other informational resources.  In FY06, 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 the department’s website.

For more information on how to get breast and cervical cancer screening and treatment, log on to a new website or by calling the Women’s Health-Line at 888-522-1282 or for TTY (hearing impaired use only), 800-547-0466. Information on women’s health issues and programs can also be found on the IDPH website,

idph online home
idph online home

Illinois Department of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
Phone 217-782-4977
Fax 217-782-3987
TTY 800-547-0466
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