After a two-hour operation to remove his cancerous prostate, Washington Mayor Marion Barry was declared in good condition yesterday at Johns Hopkins Hospital and likely to escape any recurrence of the disease.
The mayor's wife, Cora, beamed as she strode into a news briefing to announce that the operation had gone well. She was flanked by two surgeons, the mayor's press secretary and his mother, Mattie Cummings.
"You can tell by the smile on my face -- and I'm not very good at faking it -- that it's very good news," Mrs. Barry said. "My husband is going to be OK."
The operation was directed by Dr. Patrick C. Walsh, a world-renowned urologist. He was assisted by Dr. Arthur L. Burnett.
Looking buoyant and confident, Dr. Walsh said he would be surprised if the malignancy had spread beyond the prostate, explaining that it appeared strictly confined to the tissue removed during surgery.
"Everything looked excellent," Dr. Walsh said. "I feel very confident that he's going to be fine." Tests performed during the next several days should give a better indication of whether the cancer was localized, he said.
Mr. Barry, 59, announced in mid-November that he had prostate cancer. The condition had been diagnosed a month earlier by doctors at George Washington University Hospital, but the mayor said he wanted to participate in the Million Man March before making a formal announcement.
Otherwise in good health, Mr. Barry said he had no symptoms and was confident he could continue his mayoral duties with minimal interruption. His condition was flagged by a simple blood test called PSA, which measures an antigen that is sometimes elevated by a diseased prostate.
Like celebrities such as Sen. Bob Dole, rock star Frank Zappa and tennis great Bobby Riggs, Mr. Barry said he wanted to raise awareness of prostate cancer and the need for screening. Mr. Dole has survived his cancer, while Mr. Zappa and Mr. Riggs succumbed to their disease after it spread to other tissues.
By discussing his cancer, Mr. Barry served an additional purpose: drawing attention to the higher rates of prostate cancer among African-Americans. Researchers do not know why the disease occurs more frequently among black men than among white men, and why it is more often fatal.
"Prostate cancer in African-American men is a significant disease," said Dr. Burnett, who is black. "This sort of disease needs greater attention and needs to be diagnosed and treated properly."
Mr. Barry will go home when his pain is under control and he has no fever -- probably in three to five days, Dr. Walsh said.
Dr. Walsh, director of the Johns Hopkins urology department, counts among his patients Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley; Hamilton Jordan, the former aide to President Jimmy Carter; Roone Arledge, president of ABC news; U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, and the late King Baudoin II of Belgium.
Dr. Walsh said he doesn't feel pressure operating on famous people. In 1981, he collaborated with a Netherlands physician in developing surgical techniques that usually preserve urinary function and sexual performance. The radical prostatectomy once caused impotence and incontinence in most cases.