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McCain Recovers From Skin Cancer Surgery

WebMD Health News

Aug. 20, 2000 -- If Sen. John McCain could have his way, he'd blaze through his recovery from skin cancer surgery and return to campaigning for the Republican Party as soon as possible. But he is expected to remain at the Scottsdale, Ariz., branch of the Mayo Clinic Hospital though Monday or Tuesday, and experts say a full recovery from the operation may take one to two weeks.

"Obviously Sen. McCain would like to get back to the campaign trail tomorrow, but it depends on his recovery time," McCain spokeswoman Nancy Ives said Sunday.

The Arizona senator had surgery on Saturday to remove two melanomas, one from his left temple and the other from his left arm. Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer.

Preliminary findings showed that the cancer has not spread to McCain's lymph nodes and that all melanoma was removed during the surgery, said McCain's internist, John Eckstein, MD. It will take several days to fully evaluate test results from the removed tissue, but McCain's doctors were "very optimistic" about his future, he said.

McCain was eating normally Sunday and was experiencing little discomfort. McCain also visited with his staff, both in person and by phone, and was receiving news updates and discussing usual Senate business.

The removal of the melanoma from McCain's arm simply involved cutting it away, Eckstein said. The surgery on his temple was more complicated, and involved the removal of lymph nodes from McCain's face and neck and a salivary gland, he said.

McCain's wife, Cindy, said her husband was cracking jokes in his room after the surgery. "All of my prayers have been answered," she said. "My husband is in wonderful shape."

The senator had the surgery after receiving a barrage of tests at the clinic on Thursday. He underwent an MRI/MRA of his brain and had special X-rays called computed tomography, or CT, taken of his neck, chest, abdomen, and pelvis. Doctors also performed tests on McCain's heart, performing an ECG and an echocardiogram, which uses ultrasound to tell doctors about the heart's shape and function. All these tests were normal.

"That's called a complete metastatic workup," notes David Leffell, MD, a professor of dermatology and surgery at Yale Medical School, who provided commentary on McCain's treatment for WebMD.

Leffell tells WebMD he suspects doctors ran the array of tests because there was something about McCain's temple melanoma that made them suspicious of whether the cancer had metastasized, or spread. This type of skin cancer commonly spreads to the organs in the chest and the brain.

McCain's doctors had reported that the melanoma on his arm was superficial enough that it could simply be removed. But they have not made it known how deeply the melanoma on McCain's temple had sunk into the skin.

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