From Our 2008 Archives

Doctors: McCain Appears Free of Cancer

Senator Releases Years of Medical Records

By Todd Zwillich
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

May 23, 2008 — Sen. John McCain appears healthy as he prepares to mount his general election run as the likely Republican presidential nominee, three physicians who treat McCain told reporters Friday.

The doctors said McCain currently has no recurrence of melanoma, a potentially deadly form of skin cancer that doctors have diagnosed in the Arizona senator three times.

If elected, McCain would be 72 years old on Inauguration Day in 2009, making him the oldest person ever to become president. His campaign on Friday released records of his medical history since 2000. Those records showed that McCain suffers from small kidney stones and cysts and that he had some enlarged prostate tissue surgically removed in 2001.

"Sen. McCain is in excellent physical and mental health at this time," said John D. Eckstein, MD, McCain's internist at Mayo Clinic Arizona, the Phoenix hospital where McCain regularly goes for medical care. "We can find nothing in his med history that would preclude him from serving as President of the United States with vigor."

The records also show that McCain takes medication to control cholesterol.

McCain's doctors confirmed that he has had a total of four malignant melanoma skin lesions removed since 2000. One, a 2.2 centimeter lesion on his left lower temple, was classified as invasive and was surgically removed in 2000.

At the time, surgeons cut a 6 centimeter diameter circle of skin away from McCain's face. Skin was moved from another part of the face to reconstruct the wound, said Michael Hinni, MD, who performed the surgery.

Hinni said soft tissue was removed from the left side of McCain's face, which is what gives the appearance of a large bump on the senator's left jaw today.

Dermatologist Suzanne Connolly, MD, said McCain's invasive melanoma has not recurred eight years after it was removed. "At the present time the senator has no evidence of melanoma," she said.

Connolly put the chances of a recurrence of the 2000 invasive melanoma in "the low single digits."

McCain is also unable to lift his arms over his head because of injuries he suffered while a prisoner of North Vietnamese forces in the Vietnam War. Eckstein told reporters that McCain also suffers from reduced range of motion in his knee as a result of improper healing after torture and maltreatment by his captors during the war.

McCain is also known to have smoked heavily for more than 20 years. Eckstein says a recent lung scan was normal and that McCain has "no evidence" of cardiovascular disease.

The physicians would not speculate on how McCain might fare under the stresses of the presidency. "There is no way to accurately predict anyone's future health," Eckstein said.

SOURCES: John D. Eckstein, MD, internist, Mayo Clinic Arizona, Phoenix. Michael L. Hinni, MD, otolaryngology, head and neck surgery, Mayo Clinic Arizona, Phoenix.

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