Cancer lesion cut from governor

Glendening recovers from scalp operation at Johns Hopkins

`I am very optimistic'

Governor transfers executive authority to Lt. Gov. Townsend

February 09, 2002|By Michael Stroh | Michael Stroh,SUN STAFF

Gov. Parris N. Glendening is recovering from surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital after doctors successfully removed a small cancerous lesion yesterday from his scalp.

The governor is expected to remain hospitalized for a few days and then return home to recover, his doctors said at a news conference yesterday afternoon. While he recuperates, Glendening has transferred executive authority to Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, a step he occasionally takes before trips abroad, a spokesman said.

"My spirits are high and I am very optimistic," the governor said in a statement. He said he and his wife "thank the many people who have extended their well wishes. I look forward to returning to work soon and serving the people of Maryland."

The governor's dermatologist discovered the cancerous lesion during a routine visit last month. A biopsy confirmed the half-inch lesion, hidden beneath the hair on the crown of his scalp, was melanoma, the most serious and infrequent form of skin cancer.

Melanoma affects about 50,000 Americans a year and kills about 7,000. Skin cancer is caused by exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays and typically strikes fair-skinned people. Doctors noted that Glendening, who grew up in Florida and spent lots of time outdoors, fits the criteria.

If melanoma is caught early, most people make a full recovery. "In the governor's case, this was just in its infancy," Dr. Richard Lilly, the governor's personal physician, said yesterday.

Glendening was admitted to the hospital just before 8:30 a.m. yesterday. After some tests, he was given general anesthesia and underwent surgery about 10:30. Dr. Anthony P. Tufaro, a Johns Hopkins plastic surgeon who specializes in melanoma, removed a silver-dollar-sized slice of skin surrounding the cancerous area and replaced it with a graft from the governor's right thigh.

Tufaro said there were no indications that the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes or anywhere else. Because the melanoma was caught so early, doctors said there was a less than 3 percent chance the governor would require follow-up treatment.

"He's up and talking, and everything went very well," Tufaro said.

Doctors took advantage of yesterday's news conference to stress that skin cancer is highly preventable and can be minimized by wearing protective clothing, using sunscreen lotion, and undergoing regular medical exams. In addition to melanoma, the other forms of skin cancer include basal cell and squamous cell cancer. Less serious than melanoma, these two forms affect more than 1 million Americans a year.

Glendening is not the only high-profile politician with skin troubles. Arizona Sen. John McCain had a lesion removed from his face last month. In December, President Bush had four lesions removed, two of which were pre-cancerous.

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