CHICAGO – On behalf of Governor Rod R. Blagojevich, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Damon T. Arnold today spoke at the annual Polish American Breast Cancer Awareness Forum to help educate women about the importance of routine breast and cervical cancer screenings. Dr. Arnold also encouraged uninsured women to sign up for the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (IBCCP). The Breast Forum, held at Illinois Masonic Medical Center, served as an open discussion between members of the community, physicians, healthcare advocates, breast cancer survivors, and patients.
Created to increase awareness about breast cancer in Chicago’s Polish Community and encourage women to get annual breast exams, the Polish American Breast Cancer Awareness Program offered free breast exams throughout the day to conference attendees.
“It is extremely important for us to encourage the women in our lives to go and get screened for breast and cervical cancer,” said Governor Blagojevich. “In many cases, early detection of breast cancer can mean the difference between life and death. I urge all women in Illinois to make an appointment to get screened.”
According to the American Cancer Society, the five year survival rate for breast cancer is 98 percent when it is detected early. If breast cancer is detected in later stages after it has progressed and transferred to other parts of the body, the survival rate drops to 26 percent. Cervical cancer is also treatable if detected early.
The best way to detect cancer early is to have regular breast and cervical cancer screenings. Through IBCCP, eligible women 35 or older can get cervical cancer screenings and women 40 or older can get breast cancer screenings. Younger women who have symptoms may also be eligible. If cancer is found, IBCCP offers access to low-cost treatment. Even if a woman has been diagnosed with cancer outside of the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program, she may still receive low-cost treatment.
“I encourage all women in Illinois to take the time to get screened for breast and cervical cancer. Early detection is crucial to the treatment of cancer,” said Dr. Damon T. Arnold, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. “We need to continue to spread the word to every uninsured woman around the state to sign up for the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program and make and keep their appointment to get screened.”
In October, the Governor announced the “Beautiful Inside & Out” program – a new partnership between the State of Illinois and Walgreens to encourage women to get screened during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Through the partnership, Walgreens provided $50,000 worth of $25 gift cards to the first 2,000 women to sign up for IBCCP by calling the Women’s Health Line at 1-888-522-1282 to schedule and keep their screening appointment.
Beauty salons across the state also joined in the “Beautiful Inside & Out” initiative to make sure every woman knows the importance of routine breast cancer screenings and to make sure every uninsured woman in Illinois knows about the availability of free breast and cervical cancer screenings and low-cost treatment to women who qualify for IBCCP. Salon professionals from all over the state attended trainings to learn about the importance of early detection and screenings and how to talk to their clients about the importance of routine breast and cervical cancer screenings.
Make sure the women in your life receive their annual mammograms and know about the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program. Let women know that they sign up for IBCCP by calling the Women’s Health Line at 1-888-522-1282 to make an appointment to get screened for breast cancer.
For more information on signing-up for IBCCP and the “Beautiful Inside & Out” initiative, log onto www.cancerscreening.illinois.gov.