Press Release

April 4, 2006


The Cervical Cancer Elimination Task Force issues its first annual report

 Prevalence of cervical cancer in Illinois revealed

 SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Today the Cervical Cancer Elimination Task Force released an initial report after studying the prevalence of cervical cancer in Illinois, while Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director, issued a call to action to all health care providers, medical associations and both public and private schools in Illinois to step up their efforts to eliminate cervical cancer.

In August 2004, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich signed legislation sponsored by Sen. Debbie DeFrancesco Halvorson (D-Chicago Heights) and Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago), to create the State of Illinois Cervical Cancer Elimination Task Force. The task force, all volunteers, has three responsibilities: study the prevalence of cervical cancer, raise public awareness of the causes and develop a statewide prevention and control plan.

The Task Force study shows there are substantial racial, ethnic and regional disparities in Illinois for cervical cancer incidence, death, and stage of diagnosis. The cervical cancer “hot spots” center on African Americans and Hispanics in inner-city areas and Caucasian women in rural areas. Within these “hot spots,” women who are low income, low education, racial/ethnic minority, older, disabled, uninsured or underinsured are more susceptible to cervical cancer.

“Unfortunately, many women do not receive proper preventive care because they don’t have the insurance or money to pay for it, and they don’t qualify for publicly funded programs,” said Task Force member and Associate Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Stacie Geller, Ph.D. “Other women, especially in rural areas, can’t spare the time to drive two-hours (one-way in some cases) to get an exam, and there are other women who are uncomfortable talking about reproductive or sexual issues and therefore do not receive proper preventive care.”

Preventive care can mean the difference between life and death when it comes to cervical cancer.

“Cervical cancer is highly preventable and there is a lot of needless deaths that can virtually be eliminated,” said Dr. Eric. E. Whitaker, state public health director. “A simple pap test will detect cervical cancer at a precancerous or early stage, when it can be most effectively treated. You don’t have to get cervical cancer, it typically can be prevented by early detection.”

Based on the Task Force report, Dr. Whitaker called on the medical community to: develop protocols or standards to assure that all women who enter a health provider system are made aware of the need for a pap test and are encouraged to receive this test; develop educational programs that emphasize the importance of the pap test to medical providers and students so they inform their female patients; and develop solutions that break down the barriers to pap testing among underserved populations.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) launched the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (IBCCP) in an effort to reduce breast and cervical cancer mortality by providing quality screening and diagnostic services that promote early detection. The program offers free mammograms, breast exams, pelvic exams and Pap tests to eligible women. Funded cooperatively by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and IDPH, the program was created to provide breast and cervical cancer screening and referrals to low-income, uninsured women.

Stand Against Cancer (SAC) is a similar breast and cervical cancer program targeted at minority women to encourage them to get regular breast and cervical cancer screenings and aid in early detection.

IDPH also oversees the Penny Severns Breast and Cervical Cancer Research Fund, which issues grants to support research in areas related to breast, cervical and ovarian cancer prevention, etiology, pathogenesis, early detection, treatment and behavioral sciences.

“The state's Department of Public Health has worked tirelessly on projects that raise awareness about many women's health issues, many of which I have pursued since I have been in office,” said Sen. Halvorson, Conference of Women Legislators co-chair. “The adage 'an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure' couldn't be more true about many of these conditions, and especially cervical cancer. I'm happy to see our state is taking this issue so seriously."

The next step for the Cervical Cancer Elimination Task Force will be to use the information from this report to raise public awareness of the causes and develop a statewide prevention and control plan.

“Education is the key,” State Rep. Patricia “Patti” Bellock (R-Westmont) said. “Every year, more than 10,500 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer and about 3,900 women die from it. The more information women receive about the hidden dangers behind cervical cancer, the better prepared they are to overcome it.”

View the Cervical Cancer Task Force Annual Report

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Illinois Department of Public Health
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