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Editorial: Montana Cancer Control

By Lieutenant Governor John Bohlinger
Date: Friday, September 23, 2005
Contact: Sarah Elliott (406) 444-9725

A diagnosis of cancer scared the hell out of me! Having lost both of my parents to cancer, I thought I was genetically flawed when I got my own diagnosis of prostate cancer eight years ago. Thankfully, my treatments went well and I remain cancer-free today.

But last November, cancer entered my life again. My wife, Bette, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. After a considerable ordeal, the disease is now in remission and she's getting better and stronger every day. We both remain indebted to the numerous physicians, nurses, friends and family who helped us through our mutual journeys to recovery.

As I have learned firsthand, significant progress has been made in improving cancer prevention, early detection, treatment, quality of life, and survivability. Yet, despite these many advances, cancer continues to cause too much death and heartache in Montana.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in our state, taking the lives of over 1,800 Montanans each year. An estimated 5,000 new cancer cases will be diagnosed annually, and the economic burden of cancer in Montana exceeds $588 million annually. Certainly, there is more that can be done to prevent and control cancer in our state.

In fact, more is being done.

The Montana Cancer Control Coalition - a group of cancer survivors, caregivers, medical professionals, hospital administrators, representatives of nonprofits, state agencies, legislators, organizations, and others - has recently released a draft Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan for the state of Montana. This comprehensive approach to cancer control is an emerging nationwide strategy that the Coalition has adopted to help ensure that all of our state's cancer-controlling resources - from government programs to private organizations - are working together in every community and on all fronts. Enhanced coordination of cancer-control activities will benefit all Montanans by improving cancer prevention and early detection, treatment, rehabilitation, survivorship, and end-of-life care.

The plan promotes the engagement of all touched by cancer and encourages community-level participation in its development. That's why the Coalition is setting up a series of pubic forums statewide through October 31. At the forums, individuals can learn more about the history and details of the plan and will have an opportunity to add their voices to it and help the Coalition implement smarter, more effective ways to fight the disease.

As a cancer survivor, I have an intimate understanding of the importance of hope in weathering this disease. As my friend Lois Fitzpatrick, a ten-year breast cancer survivor, has said, "Hope is imperative for cancer survivors." Hope is what Montana's Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan delivers to Montanans. The plan brings us all together in advancing cancer prevention and control, enhancing our medical system, and improving the quality of life for cancer survivors.

I am greatly enthused about the draft Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan and the work of the Montana Cancer Control Coalition. I encourage all citizens to participate in shaping and advancing the future of cancer prevention and control in our state and to join in the effort of creating a healthier Montana.

Cancer has had an impact on Montanans for long enough. It's time we had an impact on it.

Please visit the Coalition's web site and read and comment on the plan today: For more information or to order printed copies of the plan, call 406-444-3624. The comment period ends October 31.


Missoula, Tuesday October 11; Dr. Mike Stewart, presenting; 7 pm - 8:30 pm, St. Patrick Hospital, Broadway Building, Conference Room 2

Helena, Wednesday October 19; Lois Fitzpatrick, presenter; Dr. Mary Haag, facilitator; Sue Miller, assistant. 7 pm - 8:30 pm, Carroll College, Campus Center, Rice Room

Billings, Thursday October 20; Dr. Thomas Purcell, presenter; Kristi Farver Oaks, facilitator; 7 pm - 8:30 pm, Deaconess Billings Clinic, Mary Alice Fortin Health Conference Center, rooms B & D

Great Falls, Wednesday October 26; Dr. Grant Harrer, presenter; 7 pm - 8:30 pm, Benefis Healthcare, East Campus, Conference Rooms B/C/D

Browning, Thursday October 27; Lori New Breast, presenter; Betty Cooper, facilitator; location and time To Be Determined