McCain Returns For Cancer Surgery

Saturday, August 19th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona Sen. John McCain said he's confident he will win his second battle with skin cancer as he prepared to undergo additional surgery to remove skin and lymph nodes around areas where cancerous lesions were removed earlier this month .

The surgery at the Mayo Clinic in suburban Scottsdale Saturday follows testing that found no signs that McCain's melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, had spread to other areas of his body. Doctors also planned to test lymph nodes near the lesion on McCain's temple.

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

After surgery, McCain planned to spend the night at the hospital.

``I'm very confident. The doctors are very confident,'' McCain said Friday.

Melanoma experts said McCain's test results so far are good news, meaning there's a much better chance that the surgery will cure him.

Some questions remain, however.

Doctors have not said how thick the cancer lesion on McCain's face was. That's one key to his prognosis, since thicker cancers are more likely to spread through the bloodstream.

Tests on the lymph nodes doctors plan to remove near the melanoma also will help determine whether surgery will be the final treatment. If the lymph nodes are clear, then the outlook for a surgical cure is excellent.

If microscopic cancer has reached one or more of the lymph nodes, treatment is more complicated and less likely to cure the cancer, melanoma experts said. Options include using anti-cancer drugs and stimulating the immune system to try to fight the cancer.

The outlook would have been much worse if the cancer had spread to McCain's organs, since that stage of melanoma is extremely difficult to treat, said Dr. John Glaspy, a researcher at UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center.

Doctors found the melanoma after McCain left the Republican National Convention to have biopsies performed at Bethesda Naval Hospital near Washington, D.C.

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

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

McCain has canceled about a dozen campaign events with GOP congressional candidates since learning of the skin cancer diagnosis. Republican leaders had counted on McCain's help to win independent voters and keep the GOP majorities in the House and Senate.

However, McCain said Friday he planned to board his ``Straight Talk Express'' bus for more campaigning by Labor Day.