Powell has surgery for prostate cancer

Disease had not spread

doctors see `full recovery' for the secretary of state

December 16, 2003|By Earl Lane | Earl Lane,NEWSDAY

WASHINGTON - Secretary of State Colin L. Powell underwent surgery yesterday for the removal of a cancerous prostate, and his spokesman said Powell is doing well.

"I'm happy to report that he's out of surgery, that everything went fine," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said. The surgery was performed at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here. "The doctors say he had a localized prostate cancer," Boucher said. There were no complications during the two-hour surgery, Boucher said, and "a full recovery is expected."

Boucher said the initial diagnosis was made several months ago, as was the choice to schedule surgery. But he offered few medical details, and Walter Reed did not release additional information.

There has been speculation on whether Powell, 66, will stay in his job if President Bush wins a second term. Boucher said the surgery "has no bearing whatsoever" on that question.

Outside specialists said the available information suggests that Powell had an early-stage cancer and has good prospects for long-term survival.

"They wouldn't have performed surgery unless they truly believed the cancer was localized to the gland itself," said Dr. Kenneth Pienta, a urologic oncologist at the University of Michigan.

The prostate is a walnut-sized gland, below the bladder, that produces seminal fluid. Prostate surgery can result in temporary or permanent incontinence and impotence, specialists said, although efforts are made when possible to spare the nerves that control erections.

Dr. Durado Brooks, director of prostate cancer programs for the American Cancer Society, said surgery or radiation are primary treatment options for early-stage prostate cancer, with many patients choosing surgery because they want to be rid of the cancer quickly. "Their first response is `Get it out,'" he said.

If Powell's cancer had spread to other parts of his body, specialists said, the medical team likely would have recommended hormonal therapy, a systemic approach that seeks to deprive cancer cells of the male hormones they need to grow. Dr. Thomas Bradley, an oncologist at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y., said patients with advanced prostate cancer often receive hormonal therapy followed by radiation.

Brooks said men treated for early-stage prostate cancer, by surgery or radiation, typically have five- to 10-year survival rates of better than 80 percent.

Prostate cancer is second to lung cancer as a cause of cancer death among men, according to the American Cancer Society. This year, about 28,900 men in the United States are expected to die of the disease with about 220,900 new cases diagnosed.

Dr. Gerald Hoke, chief of urology at Harlem Hospital and a Columbia University faculty member, said the prostate cancer death rate for African-Americans is twice that of whites for reasons not well understood.

Powell probably will spend several days in the hospital, Boucher said, and recuperate at home. with a reduced schedule.

Newsday is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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