SPRINGFIELD – In an effort to reduce the number of women who die each from cervical cancer, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today signed legislation creating the Cervical Cancer Elimination Task Force. The new task force will educate the public about cervical cancer and the virus shown to cause it, as well as to identify prevention and control strategies and technologies, for Illinois women.
“If women are better informed, they may be more vigilant about getting regular screenings and, if diagnosed with cervical cancer, have more treatment options,” said Blagojevich. “No woman should die of cervical cancer, which is a highly preventable disease.”
The Illinois Department of Public Health estimates 750 Illinois women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer this year and 230 deaths are projected. Cervical Cancer is the seventh leading type of cancer in women and the eighth leading cause of cancer deaths in women. The disease is curable when found early.
Cervical cancer was once the number one cause of death from cancer in women. However, with the introduction of the Pap test, deaths from cervical cancer among American women have been reduced by approximately 70 percent. Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a test for human papillomavirus, or HPV, the virus that causes most cases of cervical cancer, which should help to further reduce the number of deaths.
The legislation was part of a national campaign, the Challenge to Eliminate Cervical Cancer, launched in January by Women in Government, a Washington, D.C.-based organization representing state-level elected officials.
The organization’s bipartisan membership is pushing for legislation and resolutions nationwide that will facilitate greater education about cervica
cancer and HPV and better access to more effective screening method – regardless of women’s socioeconomic status.
The new law, sponsored by Sen. Debbie DeFrancesco Halvorson (D-Crete) and Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago), also requires the task force to develop a statewide comprehensive cervical cancer prevention plan and to make annual reports.
The 12-member board will be appointed by the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health and will include physicians, health professionals and community-based advocacy groups. Members of the General Assembly and representatives of state agencies will serve as ex officio members of the task force.
Staff from IDPH’s Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program will also assist the task force. This federally and state funded program provides breast and cervical cancer screenings to more than 20,000 women in Illinois who have limited income and no health insurance. The program targets underserved women, including African Americans, Asians and Hispanics.
There is a wide disparity among races from 1996 to 2000, with cervical cancer being the third most common cancer for Hispanic women, the fourth most common cancer among African-American women and the sixth most common cancer for Asian women. The disease does not rank in the top ten cancers for white women.
"No woman should die of cervical cancer,” said Sen. Halvorson. “Each year, over 10,500 American women are diagnosed with this deadly disease and approximately 3,900 die. Two key issues have traditionally held us back from eliminating this preventable disease: First, we need more education and wider access to screening, and second, women need to be screened with
greater accuracy, so that early intervention is possible.”
“Though the incidence of cervical cancer continues to decline, the issue of health disparities is troubling,” said Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director. “Black, Hispanic and Asian women are particularly at risk.”
Senate Bill 2424 is effective immediately.