Is Illinois doing everything it can to help in the fight against cancer? Not quite, according to a new report from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.
Illinois is one of 16 states that earned mixed reviews after researchers measured policies aimed at improving cancer prevention and treatments. The Prairie State garnered praise for hitting the mark on four out of seven of the Cancer Society’s target issues, but they say there’s still room to improve.
The report found that Illinois earned high marks when it comes to early detection for breast and cervical cancer, and colorectal screening coverage. The state’s recent $1 cigarette tax hike and the 2008 smoking ban also helped keep Illinois from getting a failing grade overall.
While it’s not quite failing on the fifth issue, the report suggested that Illinois needs do more to provide its citizens with access to palliative care, a type of disease treatment similar to hospice. The difference is palliative care is not limited to patients suffering from a terminal illness.
Illinois fails, however, in providing funding for tobacco-use prevention programs and banning tanning bed use by teenagers.
Heather Eagleton, public policy director for the Illinois Division of the American Cancer Society, said Illinois got the low marks in tobacco prevention because state government funds those programs at only six percent of the Center for Disease Control’s recommended level of $157 million.
But, these laws were not considered in the report as they were introduced after research had concluded.
But Eagleton said they are steps that could lead to a statewide ban.
“Since the city of Chicago has passed their ban, I think we could use it to educate more legislators outside of Chicago on why this is important,” she said.
Eagleton said since 1988 the number of teens using tanning beds has jumped from one percent to 27 percent, and those users have a 75 percent higher risk of developing melanoma, a specific type of skin cancer.
Unfortunately, in Illinois about 66,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer and more than 24,000 cancer-related deaths are expected this year, according to the American Cancer Society.
But there is some good news.
“We could prevent half of all cancer deaths in the U.S. if everyone would just stop smoking, get screened for cancer, and eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly. So, if we could just focus on those, we’d be in good shape,” Eagleton said.