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Eva Peron and Cervical Cancer

va peronFrom 1945 to 1952, Eva Peron was the wife of Juan Peron, the most powerful man in Argentina. When she first met him, he was a general who seized the dictatorship of the country. She was the illegitimate daughter of a nobleman and his mistress. Because her parents were not married, her father never acknowledged her birthright and she was very poor. She became a singer and crawled to the top of her profession on the basis of great drive, beauty, modest talent and spectacular charisma. However, her marriage was marred from the very first day that they met, because Juan Peron constantly berated her for not being a virgin, and she repeatedly begged him to forget her past. Many times, she wrote to him, "Please think of me for what I am. Stop berating me for the things that I have done before I met you."  In North America today, Eva Peron is best known as the subject of Evita, the beloved musical by Andrew Lloyd Weber, with my favorite song of all time, "Don't Cry for Me Argentina."
 

 
The Most Adored Person in Argentina
She was much smarter than her husband and appeared regularly on the radio and in newspapers to support the image that he was a great ruler.  She traveled throughout the country trying to help the poor and the workers. The masses in Argentina loved her because she: 
• was brought up in severe poverty,
• was a strong supporter of labor rights and the pro-Peronist trade unions,
• directed the Ministries of Labor and Health, 
• founded the charitable Eva Perón Foundation, 
• was a strong supporter of women's suffrage in Argentina, and
• founded Argentina's first large-scale female political party, the Female Peronist Party.
 
In 1951, the people of Argentina were ecstatic when she announced that she would run for Vice President of Argentina.  However, health problems prevented her from actually seeking that high office. In 1952, she was given the title of "Spiritual Leader of the Nation" by the Argentine Congress
 
Misdiagnosis of Appendicitis
In January 1950, at age 30, she fainted in public and was diagnosed as having appendicitis and had her appendix removed. However, she really had cancer of the cervix.  She never really recovered from the surgery and continued to be weak and tired all the time, and had horrendous vaginal bleeding. Later, she was correctly diagnosed by her gynecologist as having cervical cancer, but Juan Peron never told her of that diagnosis, probably because she was necessary for his re-election as president of Argentina in 1951.
 
She Was Never Told She Had Cancer
In November 1951, when her husband was running for re-election, she was put to sleep for surgery. She was told that she would have her uterus removed and that her doctor would be the famous Argentinian surgeon, Ricardo Finochietto. After she was asleep, and without her knowledge, the noted American cancer surgeon, George T. Pack, entered the operating room and removed an extensive cancer of the cervix that had already spread to other parts of her belly.  After he operated and before Eva Peron awoke, Dr. Pack left the operating room and headed to the airport to fly back to New York. When she awoke, she was told that she had an uneventful removal of her uterus for bleeding. Juan Peron never told her that she had a widely-spread cancer, even though she was the first person in Argentina to receive chemotherapy. She died at age 33 in July 1952.  The entire nation went into mourning and all activities throughout the country were closed down. 

 

 

 

Lobotomy Done Without Her Knowledge

In 2011, 59 years after her death, a Yale neurosurgeon reviewed X rays of her head and reported that she had received a prefrontal lobotomy, apparently to relieve the pain of widespread cervical cancer.  Again without telling her, Juan Pero had a neurosurgeon fly into Argentina and cut the nerves in the front of her brain.  It didn't make any difference that lobotomies usually destroy the brain to leave a patient with the emotional and intellectual maturity of a child.  Eva Peron was never told about her cancer surgery or the lobotomy; her husband knew that she was going to die and wanted to keep her as comfortable as possible. 
 
Juan Peron the Hypocrite
Virtually all cases of cervical cancer are caused by a group of viruses called Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).  Almost always these viruses are transmitted through sexual contact.  Juan Peron's first wife also died of cervical cancer. Many letters between Juan and Eva Peron show that he repeatedly berated his wife for not being a virgin, but it is possible that he killed her and his first wife by unwittingly giving both of them the sexually-transmitted HPV. 
 

What Happens When You Are Infected by HPV?
There are more than two hundred different HPV viruses.  Almost every sexually-active person eventually becomes infected with some of the HPV viruses.  An infected person may have no symptoms at all, or may have warts, itching or a rash on the skin, mouth, throat, genitals or anus, but most people get rid of the virus in six to nine months without any treatment. They are then immune to getting that virus ever again, but immunity to one HPV does not protect a person from getting any of the other HPVs. However, some of the HPV viruses are far more difficult to clear.  It is these viruses that stay to cause cancers of the vagina, cervix, penis, anus, mouth or throat and on the skin anywhere in your body. 
 
Today, No Woman Should Die of Cervical Cancer
Regular PAP smears will reveal pre-cancerous changes in the cervix in time to prevent cancer.  See Abnormal Pap Smears.
 
Since HPV can cause many different cancers in both men and women, all young people should be given the HPV vaccine before they become sexually active.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend that the HPV vaccine be given to both girls and boys before they reach age 12.  The vaccine can prevent infection before exposure to HPV, but once a person picks up the virus, the vaccine is ineffective.   See HPV and Cancer
 
Avoiding Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
Many different germs can be transmitted during sexual contact.  Some of the diseases they cause cannot be diagnosed with the laboratory tests that are available today.  Condoms reduce, but do not guarantee, protection from venereal diseases because viruses and bacteria in genital secretions can get around a condom.  Before you start a new sexual relationship, I recommend having a frank discussion with your partner.  Symptoms of STDs can include vaginal or penile itching or burning, a feeling like you have to urinate all the time, burning on urination, discomfort when your bladder is full, or having to get up many times during the night to urinate.  Infections in the mouth or throat can also be transmitted during sexual contact, so a constant sore throat or bleeding gums may be an indication to get tests and treatment.  Whether or not either of you have symptoms, I recommend that you both get blood tests for HIV and syphilis. You may want to both take doxycycline, 100 mg twice a day, for at least one week, or as directed by your doctor.  This will not protect you from HPV or other viral STDs, but it can help to protect you from STDs that are caused by bacterial infections. 
 
May 7, 1919 - July 26, 1952
November 1st, 2015
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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