Eva Peron, Cervical Cancer and the Pap Smear

Eva and Juan Peron, October 1951 (Image from Wikipedia)
Fat Doctor writes that she can never think of Argentina without thinking of the music from Evita, the musical that was inspired by the life of Eva Peron.

When I think of Argentina, I too, think of Eva Peron. But there’s no musical accompaniment. Just sorrow.

Because I can never think about Eva Peron without thinking about cervical cancer, Pap smears and HPV. And the tragedy that was Eva’s death, and the deaths of so many women from cervical cancer.

Eva died from cervical cancer in 1952 at the young age of 33 years. Although George Papanicolaou invented the Pap smear in 1942, this life-saving test was not widely used in Argentina until the 1960’s. Thus, Eva’s cancer was at an advanced stage when it was diagnosed after she began having vaginal hemorrhage.  She received radiation treatment to control the bleeding, probably right around the time of that photo up there, and then a radical hysterectomy in November 1951. Despite treatment, the cancer progressed rapidly and she succumbed to it just 8 months later.

Don’t be surprised if you did not know that Eva had cervical cancer

She herself never knew. Her diagnosis was kept from her at her family’s request, and the public never told, even after her death. The subterfuge was so extensive that when they brought in an oncologic surgeon from Memorial Sloan Kettering to perform a radical hysterectomy, he never met his famous patient until she was asleep under anesthesia, and Eva never knew that her surgeon was anyone other than her own doctor.  It’s an amazing story of paternalism and politics.

Eva’s husband, dictator Juan Peron, also lost his first wife to cervical cancer at 28 years.

Did Peron carry a particularly aggressive strain of HPV, the virus that we now know causes cervical cancer, and unknowingly transmit the infection to both his wives?  Or did Evita contract HPV elsewhere, having been sexually active with multiple partners from the young age of 15?  We will never know for sure.

What we do know today is that Evita’s death due to cervical cancer would likely never have happened if she had had a Pap smear. This simple test, in which cells from the cervix are collected with a brush and examined microscopically for abnormalities, can detect precancerous changes up to 10 years before cervical cancer develops. Ten years during which developing lesions can be treated before they become cancerous.

This week is the 125th anniversary of the birthday of George Papanicolaou, the inventor of the Pap smear.

Happy Birthday, George. If there is a heaven, you are surely in it. And thank you for your wonderful Pap smear – one of the most effective cancer screening tests ever created

If only Evita had had one.


For more reading about Evita see –

For more information about cervical cancer, pap smears and HPV see these sites –


11 Responses to Eva Peron, Cervical Cancer and the Pap Smear

  1. Wow, great post, TBTAM. I never realized that Peron had cancer.

    It’s important to remind us regular folks how important some screening stuff is, especially when pre-cancerous cells can be removed and cancer actually be prevented. Or in other cases, I gather cancer can be treated early, which helps a lot?

    Thanks 🙂 timely reminder!

  2. Great post! As much as I don’t enjoy getting PAP smears, I truly appreciate their importance. Glad they can catch so much so early.

  3. Who knew? Great post and a wonderful way to educate people about the importance of early screening. Thanks!

  4. What a great post! I, too, had no idea she had cervical cancer. Between the Pap smear and the HPV vaccine, it’s amazing how many young women’s lives are being saved every day. Women who will grow up to achieve great things.

  5. That’s interesting. I definitely think it was Juan!

    I read a book about her and they showed an X-ray of her, maybe from an autopsy or something. It showed a tumor near what I thought was her breast so I’d always assumed she’d had breast cancer.

    I don’t believe the book went into too much detail about her illness, or maybe I was less aware of what the surgery for breast cancer would have been.

    Anyway, thanks for an informative post.

  6. We had a case study presented on cervical cancer that our course director told us was based on a celebrity. It was Evita!

  7. I am a Stage 3B Cervical Cancer Survivor. I a blog in an effort to raise Cervical Cancer Awareness http://www.cancerlost.blogspot.com. I was 28 when I was diagnosed with advanced Cervical Cancer and my story is a long, painful & inspiring one. Cervical Cancer is not talked about but it touches the lives of every single woman out there. We need to start talking about this cancer because it is not rare and it does kill.


  8. This post definitely brings the awareness amongst people that these kind of diseases must be taken care of in the initial stages of the development.

  9. I stumbled upon your blog after googling "cervical cancer blogs." I'm a cervical cancer survivor and I have a non-profit organization that raises awareness for cervical cancer. I'm always looking to connect with survivors, patients and medical professionals – anyone touched by cervical cancer – so I'm glad I came across your blog.

  10. The real story is how her medical info was kept from her even as she was dying. Even worse, she was lobotomized shortly before her death without her consent.

    How such a sexist, barbaric system could exist in the 20th century is beyond me. There’s a special place in Hell for these men.

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