CHICAGO – In her ongoing efforts to promote breast cancer awareness, First Lady Patti Blagojevich today joined Y-ME Illinois and 1,500 breast cancer advocates at the Y-ME Illinois Annual Fashion Show and Luncheon to honor breast cancer survivors in Illinois and to encourage annual breast cancer screening and mammograms. Early detection has proven to significantly increase a woman’s likelihood of recovery from breast cancer.
“Early detection is one of the most powerful weapons we have against this disease,” said Mrs. Blagojevich. “It is an honor to be in the company of so many remarkable women, who have battled against breast cancer and won. I encourage all women to get screened early and often as it could mean the difference between life and death.”
The First Lady’s participation in the Y-Me Fashion show builds on her ongoing efforts to raise awareness about breast cancer. Earlier in October the First Lady kicked off Breast Cancer Awareness month by encouraging African-American women and members of their churches to host “Pink Potlucks,” a social event that promotes women’s health awareness. In addition, Mrs. Blagojevich announced $700,000 in Penny Severns Breast, Cervical and Ovarian Cancer Research Grants and presented the People Are Today’s Heroes (PATH) Award on behalf of the Governor to Dr. Olufunmilayo I. Olopade of the University of Chicago for her dedication to breast cancer research.
Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer among women 20 years of age and older in the United States. Women diagnosed with breast cancer, on average, have an 88% survival rate for the first 5 years. When breast cancer is diagnosed early, this 5-year survival rate increases to 98%. An October 2005 study by the Cancer Intervention and Surveillance Modeling Network Collaborators estimated that breast cancer screening reduced the rate of death from breast cancer by up to 23 percent, and found that treatment is likely to be more effective if cancer is detected at an earlier stage. It is estimated that approximately 1,700 women will die of breast cancer in Illinois this year.
This year, Y-ME Illinois will provide assistance to more than 10,000 newly diagnosed breast cancer patients in Illinois. The Y-ME Illinois Fashion Show and Luncheon raises more than $250,000 annually to support breast cancer patients throughout Illinois. This year’s event, titled, “Everyone is a Star,” paid tribute to all women breast cancer survivors. Mrs. Blagojevich also participated in the 2004 Fashion Show and Luncheon, “Y-ME Opens Doors.” 2005 marks the silver anniversary of this annual event.
“The Fashion Show & Luncheon is incredibly powerful, offering attendees a great opportunity to honor those who have battled breast cancer. Almost half of the fashion show models are breast cancer survivors from Illinois,” said Ruth Brody, executive director of Y-ME Illinois. “The remaining models are comprised of family and friends of breast cancer survivors, volunteers, medical representatives, local media and other supporters of Y-ME Illinois. It’s truly inspirational to see so many individuals committed to our cause united together.”
In October Mrs. Blagojevich and the Salem Baptist Church worked together to launch the “Pink Potluck” campaign. The First Lady’s “Pink Potluck” campaign built upon the Governor’s efforts to address the minority community. Mrs. Blagojevich encouraged other First Ladies of African American churches to participate in the “Pink Potluck” campaign to bring their congregations together to discuss the health concerns, experiences and information related to women’s health. The potluck also encourages women to keep their health in check by talking with their doctors about risk factors and preventative practices. Mrs. Blagojevich announced that if a group of 100 women or more participates in a “Pink Potluck,” they may request the presence of the state’s “Wellness on Wheels” van to provide health screenings and information to the women attending the event. The Illinois Department of Public Health administers the wellness van, which travels throughout the state to provide a variety of health screenings, including mammograms and cervical cancer screening to underserved areas.
Governor Blagojevich has made significant contributions to promote and improve women’s health including:
· Stand Against Cancer Program: In 2003, Gov. Blagojevich funded the Stand Against Cancer Initiative (SAC), a community outreach and screening program targeting the hardest to reach minority women. It is conducted by a coalition of neighborhood organizations, churches and Federally Qualified Health Centers. In fiscal year 2005, SAC provided 7,500 screenings and reached more than 13,000 other women through educational programs and outreach.
· Increased funding for women’s health: Since taking office, Gov. Blagojevich has proven women’s health is a priority by increasing funding every year. In fiscal year 2006, he has included $4 million in state funding to support breast and cervical cancer screening and education.
· Investment in screening and education programs: In FY 05, the total amount of funds supporting breast and cervical cancer programs was $11.45 million including $6.15 million in state dollars. Over the last two years, investments toward breast and cervical cancer screening and education programs in Illinois totals more than $21 million. Gov. Blagojevich also passed legislation in December 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.
· Signed women’s health legislation into law: This summer, Gov. Blagojevich signed several pieces of legislation effecting women’s health in Illinois. The “Ticket for a Cure” is a new lottery game to raise money for breast cancer research. 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 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.
· Breast and Cervical Cancer Funding: Provided funding to screen additional women for breast and cervical cancer. Nearly 39,000 women in two years, 44 percent of whom are minorities, received free screenings through the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (IBCCP).
· WISEWOMAN: Piloted the WISEWOMAN cardiovascular research project in DuPage County. The project is targeted toward women in the Breast and Cervical Cancer Program and helps them reduce heart disease by leading healthier lifestyles. It is now expanding to 19 counties.
· Women’s Health Education: Provided funding and support for community-based information and education programs. In fiscal year 2006, Women’s Health Initiative grants totaling $1.6 million in state funding were awarded to 77 local health departments and other non-profit organizations to fund educational programs focusing on cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, menopause and eating disorders.
· Women’s Health-Line: Increased access to services through Women’s Health-Line and other informational resources. In FY05, the state-funded toll-free Women’s Health-Line responded to more than 2,000 requests, referring women to services and providing nearly 600,000 free educational materials to women and community providers. These materials are also available through the department’s website.
· Illinois Healthy Women program: The Healthy Women program has helped women across the state stay healthy by providing comprehensive reproductive health care coverage, including annual physicals, pap smears, mammograms, screening and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and contraceptives.
For more information on women’s health and programs visit www.idph.state.il.us or call the Women’s Health-Line at 888-522-1282 or for TTY (hearing impaired use only), 800-547-0466. You may also call the health-line to inquire about the availability of the wellness vans for Pink Potluck events.