Since 2003, nearly 42,000 women received
free screenings through state program
CHICAGO – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today visited the Taste of Polonia Festival, on Chicago’s Northside to encourage Polish-American and other Illinois women to sign up for a recently expanded state program that provides free screenings and treatment for breast and cervical cancer to women without insurance. On Mother’s Day, Gov. Blagojevich announced the expansion of the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (IBCCP) enabling up to 3,000 more uninsured, low-income women in the state to be eligible for free cancer screenings and treatment. The expanded program began enrolling uninsured women Friday.
Women can find out how to get breast and cervical cancer screening and treatment by logging on to 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 health issues and programs can also be found on the IDPH website, www.idph.state.il.us
“The Taste of Polonia remains a Chicago tradition, celebrating its rich Polish heritage. Today I would like to encourage Polish-American women and all Illinois women without health insurance to sign up and take advantage of our new state program. When it comes to breast and cervical cancer, early detection is the key to survival. When breast cancer is diagnosed early, the survival rate is 96 percent, and cervical cancer is also treatable if detected early. Early detection means finding the cancer before you see the symptoms. But unfortunately, for many women who are uninsured, regular screening is not a realistic option,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “By expanding the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program, 3,000 more women will have a shot at early detection, and for those who are diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer, they can now get free treatment even if they were diagnosed outside our system. You can sign up by calling 888-522-1282.”
Three to five thousand people visit the Taste of Polonia yearly to watch musical performances, experience the Polish culture, and of course, taste the food. The festival boasts over 100 food vendors with a variety of ethnic flavor, three stages for musical acts ranging from a Pink Floyd cover band to the Funky Polak, and a variety of exhibits displaying Polish culture. The festival is an opportunity for Chicago’s Polish community to come together and celebrate their heritage.
“We welcome the Governor to the Taste of Polonia and commend him for his work in women’s health,” said Wanda Majacher, Executive Director of Copernicus Foundation. “Through my experiences with cancer, I know the importance of early detection. Polish American women have been hit hard with breast cancer, and we appreciate the Governor’s program, which allows doctors to catch cancer early, in a treatable stage”
Since the Governor took office in 2003, the State has given more than 111,000 breast and cervical cancer screenings through the Illinois Healthy Women program, including more than 82,600 screenings provided for nearly 42,000 women through IBCCP.
Previously, IBCCP offered mammograms, breast exams, pelvic exams and Pap tests to women at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), or $40,000 for a family of four. The Governor’s expansion, which began last Friday, raises the income threshold to 250 percent of the FPL, or $50,000 for a family of four. Consequently, IBCCP will screen and treat more Illinois women.
To be eligible, a woman must be uninsured and between the ages of 40 and 64 for mammograms and breast exams, and between 35 and 64 for pelvic exams and Pap tests. On a case-by-case basis, younger, symptomatic women who meet the financial and insurance guidelines are considered for the program.
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.
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 an honor for us to join Chicago’s Polish Community for the Taste of Polonia,” said Barry Maram, Director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. “Gov. Blagojevich has taken tremendous steps to help working families in Illinois, including expanding the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program and creating All Kids, which gives every child in Illinois access to affordable, comprehensive healthcare. These achievements will help families in the Polish community and throughout Illinois get the care they need.”
Previously, if a woman was eligible for IBCCP, but was diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer outside of the program, then she was not eligible for treatment. The Governor’s expansion allows women who meet IBCCP eligibility requirements, but are diagnosed outside the current IBCCP sites, to go straight into the free treatment program through the Department of Healthcare and Family Services. This gives women more choices and also avoids 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.
Approximately 425 Illinois women a month are receiving treatment as a result of IBCCP referrals. With the expansion of eligible women into IBCCP and the entry of more women from other providers into the Treatment Act services, the number of women receiving treatment is expected to double.
Gov. Blagojevich has made other significant contributions to promote and improve women’s health including:
- Increased funding for women’s health: Governor Blagojevich has consistently made women’s health a priority, allocating $24.1 million in state funding for women’s breast and cervical health programs over the last four years. This year, Governor Blagojevich allocated $2.1 million in new funding to increase eligibility for life-saving breast and cervical cancer screenings to women with incomes up to 250 percent of the federal poverty level.
- Illinois Healthy Women program: The Healthy Women program has helped women across the state who are losing their Medicaid eligibility stay healthy and promoted healthy births by providing comprehensive coverage for reproductive health care, including annual physicals, Pap smears, mammograms, screening and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and contraceptives. More than 214,000 women have been offered this program since its inception in 2004.
- Signed women’s health legislation into law: Last summer, Gov. Blagojevich signed several pieces of legislation affecting women’s health in Illinois. The “Ticket for the Cure” is a new lottery game to raise money for breast cancer research and services. 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 and renamed 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. In 2004, Gov. Blagojevich also signed legislation 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.
- Stand Against Cancer initiative: Beginning in 2003, Gov. Blagojevich funded the Stand Against Cancer (SAC) initiative, 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 more than 17,000 breast and cervical cancer screenings and reached more than 47,200 other women outside of IBCCP through educational programs and outreach.
- Hispanic Breast and Cervical Cancer initiative: In 2005, Gov. Blagojevich launched the Hispanic Breast and Cervical Cancer initiative, which is closely patterned after the Stand Against Cancer initiative. Women screened through the initiative who subsequently need diagnostic tests are referred to local IBCCP lead agencies.
- Illinois WISEWOMAN Program: Providing the WISEWOMAN cardiovascular research program in both English and Spanish languages in 21 Illinois counties. The project is targeted toward women enrolled in the Breast and Cervical Cancer Program and helps them reduce heart disease by leading healthier lifestyles.
- Women’s Health-Line: Increased access to services through Women’s Health-Line and other informational resources. In FY06, the state-funded toll-free Women’s Health-Line responded to more than 2,000 requests, referring women to services and providing more than 223,757 free educational materials to women and community providers. These materials are also available through the department’s website.