A New York Times article raised concerns that John McCain could suffer a recurrence of the skin cancer that he suffered eight years ago. The report follows close on the hells of the story alleging an affair between the senior senator and lobbyist Vicki Iseman.
The report, by reporter Lawrence K. Altman, who is also a medical doctor, refers to the melanoma, or skin cancer, that McCain had back in 2000. Altman writes that though McCain is occasionally asked about his age, he has almost never been asked about his health. He suggests that McCain's melanoma could recur. He does, however, indicate that the chances of a recurrence are extremely slim.
"Doctors advise melanoma patients to have regular checkups to detect new skin cancers and the spread of old ones because melanomas can be quirky," the report states. McCain's staff, it points out, has not revealed the tests that his doctors are using to monitor the case, it adds. Altman states that recurrences of melanoma take place in the first few years after diagnosis. He adds that the survival figures for melanomas are often measured in ten-year periods instead of the five-year periods used to calculate survival in the case of some other cancers."
Altman has described how McCain had undergone a surgery to determine whether the cancer had spread from his left temple to a key lymph node in his neck. The test showed that it had not, he adds. He writes, "But because such a test cannot be definitive, the surgeons, with Mr. McCain’s advance permission, removed the surrounding lymph nodes and part of the parotid gland, which produces saliva, in the same operation, which lasted five and a half hours." McCain's staff at the time, according to Altman, had said that the final pathology analysis reported no evidence of the spread of the melanoma, or that chemotherapy or radiation was needed.
However, Altman quotes Dr. Richard L. Shapiro, a melanoma surgeon at New York University, as saying that “With melanoma, a patient is never completely clear.” Altman accepts that a recurrence did not seem likely in the case of McCain. However, he indicates that the typical treatment, in case of a recurrence, involved surgery and a complicated form of chemotherapy, adding that the "chances of long-term survival diminish."
Altman even goes on to point out that McCain seemed to be very careful about shielding himself from the sun by using a "powerful sunscreen before outdoor events," and relying on "spots of shade" or "baseball caps." Altman said that McCain's "prognosis for the recurrence of melanoma medical" could be estimated only by talking with experts having no firsthand knowledge of his medical condition. But those "experts say his prospects appear favorable," he writes.