Contact the Governor

  • Send Comments
  • Schedule Request
  • Contact Us

Honor our Montana Heroes

  • View Montana Heroes
  • Submit a Montana Hero

Follow the Governor on

Facebook icon Twitter icon rss icon
Montana Accountability Partnership

Submit Your Good Ideas

Editorial: End Cervical Cancer in Our Lifetime

By Lieutenant Governor John Bohlinger
Date: Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Contact: Sarah Elliott 444-9725

Nationwide, about 3,700 women will die this year from cervical cancer, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). They say 11,150 new cases will be diagnosed this year, too. Yet, this cancer is almost entirely preventable. September is Gynecological Cancer awareness month/January is cervical cancer awareness month so I ask you to read this short column to learn how you can possibly save your life, or the life of a mother, sister, daughter, or friend you love.

A virus called human papillomavirus (HPV) causes nearly all cases of cervical cancer cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Most sexually active adults will be infected with HPV at some point in their life. There are many types of HPV spread by skin to skin contact in the genital area. HPV causes no symptoms and usually goes away on its own, by all accepted medical reports.

However, high-risk HPV which stays in a woman’s body a period of years can cause cervical cancer. The HPV causes cells to change leading to cancer. Cervical cancer can be prevented or cured by removing the abnormal cells before they become cancerous. A Pap test can detect the abnormal cells. Often, there are no early symptoms so women should have pap tests done regularly, says the National Women’s Health Resource Center.

Low-cost and free Pap tests and mammograms are available in Montana.  If you think you cannot afford a Pap test or mammogram, please call the Montana Breast and Cervical Health Program (MBCHP) at 1-888-803-9343.  The MBCHP will contact you with an administrative site in your area providing free or low-cost Pap tests and mammograms to low-income, uninsured, and underserved women.  The program provides services for women between the ages of 50 and 64 who are eligible. Limited services are available for women ages 30-49 for Pap Tests and ages 40-49 for mammograms.

The CDC and ACS lay out the following items as ways to reduce the chance of HPV infection. The surest prevention of HPV infection is abstinence. If one does become sexually active, limiting the number of sexual partners decreases the chance of infection. Use of condoms can reduce, but will not eliminate, the chance of HPV infection. Smoking can increase the chance of HPV infection, says the ACS.

Why talk about cervical cancer now? It is in recent years that the facts told here have become generally, medically accepted. Modern medicine and advanced technology have also put new tools before us in the fight against cervical cancer. When a woman receives an unclear Pap test result, for example, doctors may now order a test which can specifically determine if high-risk HPV is in the body. In addition, two vaccines are becoming available which combined, protect against four types of HPV, including the two types of HPV which cause 70% of cervical cancer cases. Once a vaccine is licensed by the Food and Drug Administration, the federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends who should get the vaccine and at what age.

So, I have joined with men and women, Republicans and Democrats, and lieutenant governors across the country in trying to pass on these facts so you can act. My message is simple. Cervical cancer is almost always caused by a sexually transmitted virus. Women should commit to get a regular Pap test and follow up on results. Informed sexual decisions and regular screening through a Pap can rid us of cervical cancer. Please, pass it on and help end cervical cancer, perhaps within our lifetime.