WASHINGTON — First Lady Nancy Reagan will undergo tests for breast cancer on Saturday and will have her left breast removed if doctors confirm preliminary evidence of malignancy, the White House said today.
Spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said a routine mammogram on Oct. 5 turned up "a suspicious lesion that might represent an early stage of malignancy" in the 66-year-old First Lady.
He said doctors will proceed with a "modified radical mastectomy" if evidence of cancer is found. Such a procedure involves removal of the entire breast but not the underlying muscle.
Fitzwater quoted Mrs. Reagan as saying, "I guess it's my turn," when doctors advised her that she may have cancer.
President Reagan has had a portion of his colon removed in one cancer operation, and has had bits of skin removed from his nose in other procedures for skin cancer.
Asked if he was worried about his wife, Reagan said, "Of course. I'm concerned and so is she, but I have confidence" in the doctors.
Fitzwater said members of Mrs. Reagan's family, including her mother, Mrs. Edith Davis of Phoenix, had been notified. He said he did not believe any of them planned to come to Washington in the next few days.
Mrs. Reagan traveled to New Hampshire today for a few hours as scheduled to attend a conference on the foster grandparents program, but made no mention of her health.
"This is the kickoff of our campaign to bring foster grandparents into the fight against drugs," she said in Somersworth. "Our plan is to bring those who care so much together with those who need such caring and love."
Word of her examination arrived about noon, as the First Lady was leaving.
Fitzwater said Mrs. Reagan is in good spirits and feeling well, adding, "I think she has some anxiety, as anyone would."
He said Mrs. Reagan will enter the Bethesda Naval Hospital later in the day and doctors will conduct a biopsy of the "suspicious area" of her left breast on Saturday.
Fitzwater said the President would accompany Mrs. Reagan when she enters the hospital and return to the White House for the night. He said Reagan will return to the hospital early Saturday morning to be with his wife.
"If there is microscopic evidence of malignancy, the physicians will proceed with the surgical extirpation (removal) of the left breast and remove nodes from the left axilla, a procedure known as a modified radical mastectomy," Fitzwater said.
He said that "all other alternatives of management of carcinoma of the breast have been discussed with the First Lady, and she accepts the procedure recommended for her circumstance. Further recommendation for post-operative treatment will be made pending the type and stage of disease encountered."
First Lady Betty Ford had a mastectomy while her husband, Gerald R. Ford, was President.
Fitzwater said Mrs. Reagan's doctors include Oliver Beahrs and Donald McIlrath of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.; John E. Hutton Jr., the President's physician, and Capt. Harry B. Etienne, the chief of general surgery at Bethesda.