Tony Snow's Cancer Returns

White House Spokesman, 51, Has Surgery for Colon Cancer Recurrence

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on March 28, 2007
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March 28, 2007 -- White House spokesman Tony Snow is facing a recurrence of colon cancer.

Snow, 51, had surgery on Monday to remove a growth in his abdomen. Lab tests show that the growth is cancerous and that the cancer had spread. Doctors have found cancer in his liver.

"It's a recurrence of the cancer that he thought that he had successfully dealt with in the past," President George W. Bush says in a statement issued yesterday. "His attitude is, one, that he is not going to let this whip him, and he's upbeat," Bush says.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said yesterday that Snow and his doctors found the growth -- which was about the size of the tip of a pinky finger -- in a recent series of CAT scans, PET scans, and MRIs.

Before the surgery, Snow had been getting checkups every three to four months and said he felt fine, Perino told reporters.

Colon Cancer Recurrence

The growth was located in the same spot in the abdomen as Snow's previous cancer, Perino said. Snow had his colon removed and underwent six months of chemotherapy in 2005 to treat the colon cancer.

Snow, whose mother died of colon cancer, had just reached the two-year mark of supposedly being cancer free, Perino said.

Perino said she did not know where Snow's new cancer had spread, apart from Snow's liver.

"He's a fighter," Perino said of Snow. "He plans to take this on with the advice of his doctors. They are in consultation right now, talking about an aggressive treatment to go after the cancer."

That treatment "will likely include chemotherapy but could include other things, as well," Perino said.

American Cancer Society's Comments

The American Cancer Society issued a statement from its chief medical officer, Harmon Frye, MD.

"The news that Tony Snow has suffered a recurrence of colon cancer, coming on the heels of Elizabeth Edwards' announcement last week that her breast cancer has returned, points to why recurrence is such a worrisome issue for cancer patients," Frye says.

"As with breast cancer, recurrence of colon cancer can be serious, particularly when that recurrence occurs in another organ. Still, when the disease recurs, cures can be achieved. This involves surgery combined with chemotherapy.

"In the last 10 to 15 years, major advances in chemotherapy have broadened the options available to patients. We've gone from having only one or two drugs with survival in patients with metastatic disease measured in months, to having seven to eight very good drugs available, with survival often measured in years, and some patients live many years after having recurrent disease," Frye says.

"This change is an example of cancer becoming a 'chronic disease' that people can live with in addition to those patients whose disease is cured with initial treatment. But these advances should not distract from the fact that cancer recurrence is a serious situation," Frye says.

"Finally, colon cancer remains the third leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women, and the best defense is early detection. Every American should be tested for colon cancer beginning at age 50," says Frye.

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SOURCES: Dana Perino, White House spokeswoman. Statement from President George W. Bush. Associated Press. Statement from Harmon J. Eyre, MD, chief medical officer, American Cancer Society.

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