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
ROCKFORD, 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. Joined by cancer survivors, health officials and advocates at the Winnebago County Health Center, state public health director Dr. Damon T. Arnold encouraged women to take charge of their health and get breast and cervical cancer screenings during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. 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. 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.”
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 later and it has progressed.
"I am here, today, to tell my story," said Mary Lewis, a self-employed daycare provider who had been laid off after working 30 years. Since Lewis was self-employed, she could not afford health insurance. Coincidentally, she learned out about IBCCP through her church, as an effort to raise awareness about breast cancer. After she found a lump in her breast, she found out that she qualified for the State program.
"After I called Winnebago County Health Department, they walked me through the process and got me the treatment I needed. They did everything. As scary as it was to be diagnosed with breast cancer, it was even scarier that I did not have health insurance to pay for treatment," said Lewis. "The Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program was a Godsend."
Lewis is thankful the Governor expanded IBCCP so all uninsured women have access to screenings and treatment. "That's why I am telling my story." She is now cancer free.
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.
“No one knows how to completely prevent breast cancer. But, mammograms and clinical breast exams are the most effective tools doctors have for detecting breast cancer early and saving lives. And cervical cancer is virtually preventable and curable, which is why regular Pap tests are so important. We, here at the Winnebago County Health Department, help these women everyday. We applaud Governor Blagojevich’s continued efforts to reach out to women who otherwise may have not had access to these important screenings," said Joyce E. Bass RN MPH, Director of Clinical Health Services at Winnebago County Health Department.
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 $25,525 for an individual or $34,225 for a couple.
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.
Another way to help women get important breast cancer screenings is by supporting the Ticket for the Cure lottery game. In 2005, Gov. Blagojevich signed a law initiated by state Senate President Emil Jones (D-Chicago) and state Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) to create the Ticket for the Cure. Launched in January 2006, Ticket for the Cure is the nation’s first lottery ticket dedicated to helping fund breast cancer early detection, education, research, and patient services throughout the state. Earlier this year Gov. Blagojevich awarded $2 million in grants to 41 Illinois organizations for breast cancer education efforts and to help provide supportive services for breast cancer victims and their families. One hundred percent of the proceeds from Ticket for the Cure support programs and research initiatives to help diagnose and treat breast cancer. Everyone is encouraged to play the latest Ticket for the Cure instant game “Tic-Tac-Cash” and help support the fight against breast cancer.
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.