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McCain Has Tests to Pinpoint Status of Cancer, Its Prognosis

Health: Doctors check for the possible spread of melanoma. The Arizona senator may begin treatment soon.


Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) underwent a battery of tests Thursday to help doctors figure out how far his recently diagnosed melanoma has progressed, and he could begin treatment as soon as Saturday for the aggressive skin cancer, advisors said.

The former candidate for the Republican presidential nomination--who delighted GOP primary voters with his "Straight Talk Express"-- plans to meet this morning with physicians to discuss his prognosis and treatment. He plans to release the test results and doctors' prognosis today and will probably speak with reporters at his home in Phoenix.

As McCain left the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., after the procedures were finished Thursday, he told reporters "I feel fine, thanks," according to Associated Press. Then he donned sunglasses, got behind the wheel of a black sport utility vehicle and headed home with his wife, Cindy. They declined to answer questions.

The former Vietnam POW--who turns 64 on Aug. 29--was treated for melanoma in 1993, when doctors removed a cancerous mole on his shoulder. Thursday's tests should reveal whether the current melanoma--a spot on McCain's left elbow and one on his left temple--is a recurrence of the earlier cancer or whether the spots are so-called primary lesions, which are new, unrelated and less dangerous.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday August 23, 2000 Home Edition Part A Part A Page 3 Metro Desk 1 inches; 30 words Type of Material: Correction
Cancer institute--A story in Friday's Times about Arizona Sen. John McCain and skin cancer incorrectly identified the medical director of the John Wayne Cancer Institute in Santa Monica. He is Dr. Donald L. Morton.

McCain's Washington office released a terse written statement Thursday--two short sentences and a list--cataloging the diagnostic tests that the senator underwent: blood work, a chest X-ray, an electrocardiogram, an MRI, a CT scan and an echo cardiogram.

The electrocardiogram and echo cardiogram both monitor heart function, said Dr. Douglas Morton, medical director at the John Wayne Cancer Center in Santa Monica and a melanoma specialist. While melanoma rarely involves the heart, he said, the tests are standard procedure.

The chest X-ray and CT scan are intended to find out whether the melanoma has spread to the lungs and abdomen, Morton said, and the MRI to figure out if the disease has spread to the brain.

During a routine physical McCain had during the Republican convention two weeks ago, doctors at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., found two spots that they suspected were melanoma and conducted biopsies.

McCain heard the biopsy results last week at the beginning of a West Coast campaign swing with Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the Republican nominee for president.

After the political trip, McCain immediately left for a vacation with his family and only returned earlier this week to consult with doctors. His Washington office announced the diagnosis on Wednesday, and aides said at the time that McCain would cancel all campaign appearances scheduled for next week.

On Thursday, he canceled another campaign trip--a swing through Ohio on behalf of Republican Sen. Mike DeWine planned for Sunday. Aides said that he was still mulling whether to attend an Arizona fund-raiser later Thursday night.

Both McCain's treatment and prognosis depend on whether the new melanomas are primary lesions or recurrences, so-called metastatic lesions. Morton said that the delay between last week's diagnosis and this week's treatment leads him to believe that the new cancers are unrelated to the old.

"I can't imagine that his doctors would have not proceeded more rapidly if these were metastatic lesions," said Morton, who runs the largest melanoma treatment center in the United States.

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