Blagojevich Administration launches Take Charge,
Get Screened breast cancer awareness effort;
Illinois first and only state in the nation to offer free cancer screenings and treatment to all uninsured women
Take Charge, Get Screened campaign informs women about the importance of cancer screenings during October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month
MOLINE, Ill. – After Governor Rod Blagojevich made Illinois the first and only state in the country to offer free breast and cervical cancer screenings and treatment to all uninsured women, administration officials are taking the message to communities around the state. The Take Charge, Get Screened campaign calls on every woman to get screened, noting early detection could save a life. The first of several outreach events took place today in Moline . Effective October 1, Gov. Blagojevich made sure all women who need access to potentially life-saving cancer screenings and treatment could get it by expanding the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (IBCCP) to all uninsured women in Illinois . This expansion makes it possible for more than 260,000 women in Illinois to qualify for free cancer screenings and treatment when they need them, regardless of income.
“The Governor continues to show his dedication to healthcare in Illinois through his expansion of the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program.,” said Dr. Damon T. Arnold, Illinois Department of Public Health Director. “As a doctor I know that the earlier an illness like cancer is detected, the sooner treatment can begin, which increases the chance for a better health outcome and survival rate. Almost every cervical cancer death is preventable through early detection, treatment and follow-up. I want to urge every uninsured woman in the state who needs breast and cervical cancer screenings to get them. Thanks to the Governor's expansion, there is no longer a reason not to.”
“I admire the Governor's continued commitment to healthcare in Illinois. As a registered nurse, I can't stress enough how important it is for every woman to get screened. These screenings save lives. Through the Governor's expansion of the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program, now every woman can – regardless of income – get a mammogram or Pap test,” said Director O'Donnell. “I'm asking women need to take charge of their health and not only get screened, but tell other women to get screened.”
The most recent statistics show 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 according to the American Cancer Society. The survival rate drops to 26 percent when breast cancer is diagnosed late.
Under the newly expanded program, the IBCCP will now offer free pelvic exams and Pap tests to any uninsured women between the ages of 35-64 and free breast exams to any uninsured woman between the ages of 40-64.
“Cancer doesn't distinguish between those with and those without insurance. The more women we can screen, regardless of their ability to pay, means the better our chances of finding cancer early enough to treat it effectively. Programs like this enable us to do just that and give these women an increased quality of life,” said Dr. Christine Sharis, Radiation Oncologist, Trinity Cancer Center .
“I can honestly say, I am alive today because of this State program,” said Zhenya Wine-McDowell, a self-employed business owner who emigrated from the former Soviet Union in 1980. Because Wine-McDowell was self-employed, she could not afford health insurance after her divorce. Due to concerns about the reddening and pain in one of her breasts, she was fortunate to have known about the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program and to qualify for a screening.
“As devastating as the diagnosis was, the scariest part was not finding out you have breast cancer, but finding out you can't afford to pay for it,” said Wine-McDowell. “The program gave me the most confidence to recover knowing I didn't have to worry about how to pay for it.”
Wine-McDowell said she was grateful she knew someone who told her about the program and wants to make sure every woman knows about the program and that now every uninsured woman is eligible. Wine said she thanks the Governor for the expansion to include all uninsured women because now her son can go to college.
Launched in 1995, the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (IBCCP) has provided almost 183,000 screenings – more than 109,000 of those screenings have been provided since 2003 under the Blagojevich administration. Before the expansion announced today, uninsured women only qualified if their incomes were under 250 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), which is about $52,000 per year for a family of four.
Beginning October 1, 2007, more than 260,000 more women will be eligible for screening and treatment through the IBCCP. 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 Gov. Blagojevich has made changes to benefit women in need of breast and cervical screenings. Previously, if a woman was eligible for IBCCP 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 IBCCP eligibility requirements, but were diagnosed outside the IBCCP sites, to go straight into the 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 (HFS) 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. Healthcare 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 logging onto www.cancerscreening.illinois.gov or by calling the Women's Health-Line at 888-522-1282 or for TTY (hearing impaired use only), 800-547-0466. Information on IBCCP and other women's health and programs can also be found on the IDPH website, www.idph.state.il.us.