Opinion: What are the Chances McCain Will Avoid Health Problems Over a Four-Year Term?

John McCain has had four bouts of malignant melanomas since 1993. This isn’t the ‘safe’ skin cancer, melanomas kill. The last round of cancer was the ‘easy’ squamous cell carcinoma. Will he last four years? Can the US survive if he doesn’t?

I know that sounds rather blunt but this man is running for President of the United States. If he kicks the bucket then Sarah Palin, the joke darling of SNL, will be cute as a button in the Oval Office and incompetent as heck.

McCain’s health is on the minds of many. 47 percent in a recent CNN poll were concerned that he would not finish a four-year term in good health.

In July 2008 McCain had a skin biopsy as a precaution. That’s this year. While it appears that the biopsy didn’t reveal cancer it highlights the fact that McCain is prone to the disease.

As a federal employee he would have the best health care known to man but if the cancer returned would that be enough? During his 2000 bout with the disease, the cancer had penetrated the skin more than the first bout in 1993. The melanoma that was removed in 2000 was a Stage IIa. It’s on the lower end of, for lack of a better word, bad cancers. With each stage from 1 to 4 there is an increased likelihood of additional cancer and death. Stage IIa in melanoma gives the odds for a survival rate 10 years after diagnosis is about 65 percent. Each year survived ups the odds of beating it.

The actual report of the tumor removed is reported on Alternet.Org:

“It was 2 centimeters across, 0.22 centimeters deep, and not ulcerated, which gives him a 66 percent survival rate over ten years. Melanoma is a particularly aggressive cancer. Mainly because skin is the largest organ in the body it can spread to the lungs, liver and the brain… Most of the occurrences will occur right away. I am reassured by the fact that it has been eight years now and there hasn’t been a reemergence of that melanoma.”

There is a question though by other doctors not on McCain’s case about that staging. The extensive surgery points to a Stage III melanoma.

Not all doctors though will agree on this staging question. If the staging was indeed a StageIII cancer the odds of McCain making it to see another election are fairly low. Alternet quotes Ronald Bronow, former chief of dermatology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles:

“As a dermatologist, if I hear about a stage three melanoma, I say ‘My God this guy is walking on nails here,” said Bronow. “There is that much difference between a stage 2 and a stage 3.”

As the New York Times reports:

“It was not out of line,” said one of the experts, Dr. Richard L. Shapiro, a melanoma surgeon at New York University. Dr. Shapiro added that he would feel more comfortable in making a judgment if he saw a full pathology report.

“It was a complex problem,” he said, “that was handled very skillfully by a team of experts.”

In the United States each year about 50,000 people will be diagnosed with melanomas. This type of cancer accounts for three-quarters of all skin cancer deaths.

The LA Times reports:

About 14% to 18% of melanoma patients have a second, unrelated tumor later, Justice said. “If [McCain] has had four, he’ll probably have a fifth,” he said. “But there is a superb chance it will be curable” because it will most likely be caught early.

If McCain wins the election let’s hope he is as healthy as he says he is. If not Palin is in control, and not the cute SNL one. The real life lipstick hockey mom who looks out to Russia from her window as foreign policy will be in charge of the Oval Office.

Good luck, John.

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