Free mammograms, other tests offered to uninsured women

By Brittany Abeijon

All uninsured women in Illinois will now have access to mammograms, pap tests, and breast and pelvic exams for free.

The Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program helps women ages 35 to 64 with no health insurance gain access to physicians who provide free women’s health care once enrolled.

Uninsured women over the age of 35 can receive free cervical cancer screenings and women over the age of 40 can receive free mammograms and breast exams, according to a letter from Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Cathie Propst, program coordinator, said the program started with federal government funding through the Center for Disease Control. Because the program has been successful in Illinois, state legislature has set money aside to expand the program and make it possible for even more women, she added.

According to the Champaign County Health Care Consumers Web site, there are 54,990 uninsured men and women in Champaign County – but only 500 women are enrolled in the program.

“It’s only been since October that women of all income levels are included,” Propst said. “We are trying to get the word out to women who have a higher household income so they can get screenings.”

Before October 2007, income was a factor in women’s enrollment. Women with income twice the amount of the federal poverty level or lower were able to enroll.

However, the program has consistently had increasing numbers of enrollment each month because of the advertisements and the change in requirements, Propst said.

The program does not begin until women are age 35 because younger women are generally eligible through family plan screening, Propst said.

“We cannot screen younger women; however, if they’ve gone somewhere else for screening, such as Planned Parenthood, and they find something problematic that needs diagnostic services, then they can be referred to us and we can help with a diagnostic workup,” Propst said.

Propst said the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program is for every county in Illinois and the enrollment process is simple.

Women can call 217-373-9281 any time to receive an enrollment package by mail or they can go to the office at 201 W. Kenyon Road, Champaign.

“There is some basic paperwork they have to fill out, consent forms release of information,” she said.

“But then we schedule appointments for them. We try to find a provider close to their home to minimize inconvenience.”

Number of uninsured individuals in Champaign County – 54,990

Number of women currently enrolled program – 500

Breast cancer will claim the lives of 1,700 women in Illinois this year.

The five-year survival rate of early diagnoses for breast cancer is 96 percent.