Specter diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease
Doctor: Chances of cure 'excellent' for Senate judiciary chairman
Wednesday, February 16, 2005 Posted: 7:00 PM EST (0000 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter
has been diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease but intends to continue
working during treatment, his office announced Wednesday.
"I have beaten a brain tumor, bypass heart surgery and many tough
political opponents, and I'm going to beat this, too," the
Pennsylvania Republican said in a statement. "I have a lot more work
to do for Pennsylvania and America."
Specter's oncologist, Dr. John H. Glick, said the 75-year-old senator
"has an excellent chance of being completely cured."
Glick is a professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and
an expert in Hodgkin's disease, a cancer of the lymphatic system also
known as Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"He is in superb physical condition, particularly in light of his
daily squash regimen," Glick said in a statement. Approximately 7,500
cases of Hodgkin's disease are diagnosed every year in the United
States, and Glick said it has a five-year survival rate of 70 percent.
Specter, who took over the chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee in
January, had experienced persistent fevers and enlarged lymph nodes
under his left arm and above his left clavicle, his statement said.
A biopsy of a lymph node carried out February 14 at Thomas Jefferson
University Hospital in Philadelphia yielded a result positive for
Hodgkin's disease, but a bone marrow biopsy showed no cancer, the
Follow-up tests Wednesday at the University of Pennsylvania's Abramson
Cancer Center determined that he has "Stage IVB" Hodgkin's disease.
For the next six to eight months, he is expected to undergo
chemotherapy every two weeks at the center, during which time he is
expected to "be able to perform all duties of his office, including
those related to the chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee," the
Most advanced form
Specter's form of the cancer is the most advanced, said Dr. Herman
Kattlove, a hematologist-oncologist who works as a medical editor for
the American Cancer Society.
"But still, our success rate is quite good," he said.
"Stage IV" means that the disease has spread outside the lymph system
and is in another organ, he said. Specter's statement did not say
which organ was involved.
"B" means that the disease is accompanied by symptoms -- typically
fevers and weight loss. The presence of symptoms also tends to worsen
the prognosis, he said.
Although Kattlove is not familiar with Specter's case, he said figures
from the National Cancer Institute give a man of Specter's age and
stage a 50 percent chance of surviving five years with the disease.
But, he said, Specter's vigor and good physical condition could
improve those odds.
"I think he'll have a good outlook for the next few years," Kattlove
said. "Whether or not he can be cured is up to luck and his health and
Kattlove predicted that the senator's major problem while he undergoes
chemotherapy will be fatigue.
"If he were a bricklayer, I think he'd be out of work, but I think, as
long as he keeps to a fairly limited routine, he should be able to
perform well," he said.
Each year, about 1,300 Americans die of Hodgkin's disease, according
to the Mayo Clinic, but death rates have dropped by 60 percent since
Specter, who supports a woman's right to have a legal abortion, came
under fire from some Christian conservatives before his appointment as
chairman of the Judiciary Committee. The chairman has broad powers to
advance or hold up a president's judicial nominees. (Full story)
Also a member of the appropriations and veteran's affairs committees,
Specter lives in Philadelphia with his wife, Joan, a former four-term
city councilwoman. They have two sons and four grandchildren.