McCain Recovering After Cancer Surgery

ByABC News

Aug. 21, 2000 -- Arizona Sen. John McCain is out of thehospital and resting at home after a five-hour surgery at the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix to remove skin cancer from his temple and upper arm.

Preliminary findings showed that the cancer has not spread toMcCain’s lymph nodes and that all melanoma was removed during Saturday’s surgery, said McCain’s internist, Dr. John Eckstein.

It will takeseveral days to fully evaluate test results from the removedtissue, but McCain’s doctors were “very optimistic” about hisfuture, he said.

“We are pleased to let you know the preliminary report on thelymph nodes … was clear without any evidence of melanoma cells,however it will take several days to fully evaluate the tissue,”Eckstein said.

The surgery followedtests that also found no signs that McCain’s melanoma, the most seriousform of skin cancer, had spread to other areas of his body.

Eckstein said McCain was almost back to his normal self.

“He is now talking straight again after general anesthesia andwhen I asked him if he wanted me to pass anything on, he said,‘Call [Senate Majority Leader ] Trent Lott. I know he’ll be on pins and needles,’” Ecksteinsaid.

McCain’s wife Cindy McCain, also said the senator woke up in good spirits.

“When I came in this morning he was joking as he does,” she told reporters. “He has kept all of us in stitches.”

McCain had a similar lesion removed from his shoulder in 1993.

So Far Good News

Tests on the lymph nodes that doctors removed will help determine whether surgery will be the finaltreatment. If the lymph nodes are clear, then the outlook for asurgical cure is excellent.

Some questions remain, however.

Doctors said Saturday that the melanoma is 2.2 millimeters. Most of the patients with cancer that deep are still alive after five years after surgery. Thicker cancersare more likely to spread through the bloodstream.

If cancer has reached one or more of the lymph nodes, treatmentis more complicated and less likely to cure the cancer, melanomaexperts said. Options include using anti-cancer drugs andstimulating the immune system to try to fight the cancer.

The outlook would have been much worse if the cancer had spreadto McCain’s organs, since that stage of melanoma is extremelydifficult to treat, said Dr. John Glaspy, a researcher at UCLA’sJonsson Cancer Center.

Doctors found the melanoma after McCain left the RepublicanNational Convention to have biopsies performed at Bethesda NavalHospital near Washington, D.C.

McCain, who turns 64 on Aug. 29, said he has seen his doctor forcheckups every three or four months since he had the lesion removedfrom his shoulder seven years ago.

Melanoma is usually caused by exposure to the sun. Those likeMcCain who have fair skin have a higher risk. McCain spent hours inthe Arizona sun campaigning for Congress in 1982 and subsequentyears.

McCain has canceled about a dozen campaign events with GOPcongressional candidates since learning of the diagnosis. Republican leaders had counted on McCain’s help to winindependent voters and keep the GOP majorities in the House andSenate.

However, McCain said Friday he planned to board his “StraightTalk Express” bus for more campaigning by Labor Day.

McCain has served Arizona in Congresssince 1982.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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