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Giuliani Announces He Has Prostate Cancer

Aired April 27, 2000 - 10:07 a.m. ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: The mayor of New York City is at the podium.

MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI (R), NEW YORK: I want to make sure everybody is seated. OK, everybody seated?

Good morning. I was diagnosed yesterday with a -- with prostate cancer. It's a treatable form of prostate cancer. It was diagnosed at an early stage. It came about as a result of taking a PSA test about 2 1/2 weeks ago. The PSA was elevated. So I took antibiotics for a while. Took the PSA test again. It remained elevated, so I went in for a biopsy yesterday, and the biopsy revealed that several of the samples, thank goodness not all and not most, had indications of cancer.

And, therefore, it's at a very, very early stage of the disease. It is also at a very early stage of determining what to do about it. But since -- since yesterday when I went to Mount Sinai a reporter saw me going in and figured out I was there for a prostate test, I thought it would be better to reveal what I know of it, which is what the doctor told me last night and over the next week, maybe two weeks maybe, maybe 2 1/2 or three weeks, I will figure out with my doctor and other doctors what the best and optimum form of treatment will be.

Obviously, the bad news is that there's cancer and the good news is that there are lots of possible options, and it's going to take a while to determine which option is the best one to bring about a complete cure.

And I would -- I'll answer some questions about it. We're still at the stage where -- normally somebody would reveal this a week or two from now when you were -- you know not only diagnosed with it, but you had worked out with your doctor or whatever doctors you consult with the form of treatment that you are going to have for it. And I haven't had the opportunity to do that yet.

One at a time.

QUESTION: We can appreciate that this is early, but can you at least tell us what you think or how, if at all, this affects the Senate race?

GIULIANI: I have no idea. I mean, I think in fairness to me, to the Senate race, to the Republican Party, to all the parties and everybody else, you need some time to think about it, and I really need the know what the course of treatment is going to be before I can evaluate it. So the answer is, I guess the same answer about the Senate race that I would have the course of treatment: I don't know the answer to that yet.

I hope that it would be able to run. But the choice that I will make about treatment is going to be contingent upon the treatment that gives me the best opportunity to have a full and complete cure. And then, after I determine that, then I will figure out that it makes sense to run this year or doesn't it or whatever.

QUESTION: In the short run does this preclude anything, for example, Buffalo tomorrow.

GIULIANI: The only thing that it might preclude is I have to take a few more treatments in order to figure out the best form of treatment. And you know, I may have to reschedule a few things to make sure that I get that treatment.

QUESTION: Can you discuss a little bit about some of the options available for the surgery, chemotherapy?

GIULIANI: Yes, I can. The options are -- the options are -- the options are the same for everybody. So they are not very different. The options are radiation, hormones, seeds (ph), which is a form of radiation or operation depending on what you think gives you the best chance of success in curing the disease, or what combination of those things and in what order that you want to do it.

As you know, doctors have very different views of this and the reason that I am going to take a week or two is you have to evaluate it. You have to evaluate all of those difference options and put them together. There is no reason, which I guess is also good news, there is no reason for me to have emergency treatment, I am not going to have treatment tomorrow or the next day or the day after. At the same time, there is also no reason to extend it, and it wouldn't be a good idea to extend it for months. So I will decide within the next 2-3 week.

QUESTION: Have you talked to Joe Torre at all about it, mayor?

GIULIANI: No, I haven't had a chance a chance to talk to Joe Torre. I talked to George Steinbrenner, he called me. He found out about it and called and he said he was going to have Joe give me a call. But I am anxious to talk to him about it. I love Joe Torre, and you know, he's been through this, and I am sure he will be a source of a lot of strength and good advice.


GIULIANI: I could probably figure out exactly when. I am going to say two weeks ago. I got a normal -- want some more good news, I love giving out good news, I'm in otherwise perfect health just about, I mean completely perfect health, which is another good thing to be in if you have to deal with something like this. I went for a physical, and when I went for the physical that's when I took the blood test, which is a normal blood test that you take, and it turned out that the PSA was high, and then it so sort of started there. And then I took antibiotics for a while, went back, it remained the same. I think that all took about two weeks.

QUESTION: How long has it been since your previous PSA?

GIULIANI: It had been a while, but there had been no other indications, a couple of years, right.

QUESTION: Mr. Mayor, how are you feeling?

GIULIANI: I feel great. Well, aside from -- I can't say I feel absolutely great, I mean I had the biopsy yesterday. That creates a few little pains that you would rather not have, but it is well worth it in light of the fact that you need to have it done. But I mean, I'm in very good health. My heart is fine. My blood pressure is low. I'm in great shape.


GIULIANI: I had my normal four hours sleep last night, not because I was worried.

QUESTION: Did the sudden developments make you think about your dad?

GIULIANI: Yes, well, my father had prostate cancer, which is the reason why I went and got tested for it. Well, sure, I mean, you always, but the chance of -- this is what I told, I am repeating what I am sure you are going to have 1,000 doctors analyze, the chance of getting prostate cancer if you have a history of it in your family is only about 10 percent greater than it is for anyone else. So that may or may not have something to do it with it.

But you know , my father -- my father had prostate cancer 30 years ago, when the treatments didn't exist, and when you could only really catch it at a much later stage because they didn't have PSA tests. They had only physical examinations, and a physical a examination would not have revealed this form of cancer.

So what he had was much more advanced than what I dealt with. And he died at 73 years old.

QUESTION: Are there any circumstances under which you would drop from the Senate rice?

GIULIANI: I don't think it's -- I don't think it's fair to answer questions about the Senate race right now. I think that my focus right now has to be on how to figure out the best form of treatment, and then after I decide that, and get a while to absorb this, to figure out, you know, should I do it? Would I be able to do it the right way? I hope that's the case. I think it would be unfair to give an answer right now. And I don't even have an indication at this point. I think I should take a little time. QUESTION: Are you going to make your physician available to maybe answer some more questions...

GIULIANI: Not yet. Yeah. When we get through the process of finishing up, deciding on exactly what form of treatment, I would be more than happy to do that. Right now, his concentration should be on, looking at tests yesterday, figuring out the other tests we have to do. I've already had probably more advice than you need to have on this just in the last two hours of people who have been through it and been told this is the best form of treatment, and then been told just the opposite. Something else is the best form of treatment. That's -- rather -- that's where I need the doctor to concentrate on.

QUESTION: You talk about your physical health being relatively good now, other than this. How is your emotional health about this? Because you seem pretty good.

GIULIANI: OK, my physical health is terrific. It isn't just relatively good. It's terrific. I mean, other than this problem. I've -- are you doing this because I said I had prostate cancer, are you kneeling down? I wanted to do that to him for a while.

QUESTION: Did this make you think about the values in life and what's important?

GIULIANI: Absolutely, sure, I don't mean between yesterday and today. Just the contemplation of it for the last two weeks makes you think about what's important in life, and what are the most important things. But you know, you should be thinking about that anyway. It just remains you to think about what you should be thinking about. Do I have an answer yet? No, I don't have an answer.

QUESTION: Two years ago, I was able to come here and ask you the question that you don't like and I hope that I will be able...

GIULIANI: In other words, your in a pain in the...

QUESTION: No, no we are a pain. However, there is life after cancer.

GIULIANI: I know that and thank you for saying that.


GIULIANI: Sure, absolutely. Yes, it brings up very painful memories. And I miss my father every day of my life. And he's a very, very important reason for why I am standing here as the mayor of New York City.

QUESTION: As far as aggressive treatment, do you know how long that would take, over what period of time you might have to take time off and discuss that at all?

GIULIANI: Probably too early to discuss it. There are different forms of treatment. They extend over different periods of time. And I think it probably too early to discuss it. I mean, would I to take off time off from the job or from running or whatever? Yes, probably, sure. I mean, I don't think significant, I think like months and months, but some forms of treatments would require taking some time off.

QUESTION: Treatable form, is there a technical name for the form?

GIULIANI: It is contained within the prostate and appears to be a form of cancer that they've had a lot of success in curing. That the treatment modalities that I mentioned have all had success in curing this kind of cancer at a pretty high rate. So that is the best way to do it.

QUESTION: How did you let you let your family know?

GIULIANI: I told them about it, pretty much the same way I just did now, maybe a little more detail or, but I just explained it.


GIULIANI: Well, the doctor called me on the telephone yesterday afternoon and then I met with him afterwards. We talked about it in person. He told me on the telephone, you know, that the test. I keep getting positive and negative mixed up. I kind of think of negative is bad and positive is good, so when he told me it was positive it took me a second to figure out: Oh, gee, that is not so good.

QUESTION: What was your first reaction when...

GIULIANI: I kind of expected it. The PSA was high twice. So I thought the best way to go into it is to figure well, it is, and I started thinking about, well how would you handle if it was bad; and if were good, you know, you would say, well, fine.

QUESTION: The Civil Right Commission, your feelings...

GIULIANI: Good. As I know more, it would be happy to -- I mean, I will disclose the rest of it. I have told you everything that I know except some of the gory details of the test, and I would urge everyone to get the PSA test. There is nothing painful about the PSA test. It's a blood test. it is no different than -- no different than taking a test to determine -- to determine, you know, what your blood sugar is or they just take blood, they examine it. If the PSA is normal or low, you don't have a problem. If it is high, then you should have it tested and find out.

HEMMER: New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani now making it official live at a press conference from City Hall there in Manhattan, saying he has prostate cancer. However, emphasizing though, in his words, it is quote "treatable form of cancer," and also adding it is in its early stages. He says he has taken antibiotics. But he says, emphasizing, again, very early stages of the disease, too early to decide though what to do about it.

Asked how it may influence his run for the U.S. Senate this fall, he says, quote, "I have not idea." Adding that, "I hope I can run. I am going to take a week or two on that matter."

He also said he has the possibility, now, of getting radiation treatment, also taking hormones or possibly leading to an operation. Also telling us today that his father suffered from prostate cancer saying he is the reason why he is standing there in front of reporters this morning.

Let's bring in some medical expertise now, Doctor Steve Salvatore, also up there in New York.

He mentioned a number of things, doctor, I guess your initial reaction to what we heard, the words from the mayor just a short time ago.

DR. STEVE SALVATORE, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it sounds to me like it is good news. Sounds like the mayor was on top of it, got involved early, caught the prostate cancer early, and most likely will have a good prognosis. You know, Bill, most patients who are caught, catch their prostate cancer early, nearly 100 percent survive at five years after diagnosis. So the prognosis is pretty good for the mayor. I don't think that he will have much trouble, though I can't really say based on his case.

HEMMER: He mentioned three things that I just repeated: radiation, hormones and operation. Is one more common than the other?

SALVATORE: It all depends on the individual, there are a lot of factors that go into deciding which procedure you will have done. And actually, some doctors tend to disagree. Some might think that radiation is better than surgery, others think surgery is better because you take the whole cancer out and you never have to worry about it coming back. But then surgery has its down sides. Surgery has been associated with urinary incontinence and problems with impotence. Even though they did have these new nerve sparing techniques, you know, this is a side effect that a lot of younger men have a problem with. So a lot of older men may not have such a problem and they may go for the surgery. But younger men, they may decide to go with radiation treatment because maybe they will have less side effects. But the downside is that the cancer could come back.

HEMMER: Again, he mentioned the early stages, and you emphasized it as well. Well respected opinion there. However, when you are talking about the short time, how is the disease possibly effect the person? Does it sap your energy? How does it affect people?

SALVATORE: No, no, in fact, that's what really so critical about getting tested is that you can walk around with prostate cancer and not even know you have it. It is a silent disease. It is the kind of thing that you carry and may not notice any changes at all, depending on where the tumor is in the prostate and if it effects any problems with urination or things like that. You might notice some symptoms, but most men don't notice anything at all. That it is why it is so critical to go see a doctor and get this blood test, as we mentioned earlier, after age 50 or if you are at risk maybe earlier at age 40, like if you have a family history. But it is a silent kind of disease. So you could have it and not even know it.

HEMMER: The mayor mentioned PSA, what does that acronym represent?

SALVATORE: Prostate specific antigen. It is a blood test that is used to test for prostate cancer. And actually, if I might add, the reason why he was given antibiotics is because sometimes you can get what is called a false positive PSA test. And they were probably trying to rule that out. Then had it rechecked after that.

HEMMER: And he encouraged everybody even in the room or listening at home that, indeed, go get the test if, indeed, you're in the age group or feel you're might be susceptible.

SALVATORE: That's just basically the message for all types of cancer. Nowadays the big key is screening, and we can really beat these things if we get them early.

HEMMER: Point well taken. Doctor Steve Salvatore in New York thank you.

Now I want to zip down to Washington. We've talked about the medical implications on this side of the story, now to the political.

Here's Bill Schneider.

There is a potential U.S. Senate run involved in all this and the mayor says: "right now I have no idea how it may effect the race." Any talk in Washington how it may?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, of course there's talk in Washington. But basically, nobody really knows anything about how it's going to effect the Senate race. We're going to have to wait and see what the medical options are and how he decides -- what he decides to do.

Clearly there are two questions, first: would he be able to go through a campaign? he said he might have time to take -- have to take time off in order to undergo treatment.

And second of all, we just heard Dr. Salvatore talk about the prognosis over five years, the survival rate, the Senate term, of course, is six years. So the mayor would have to make his decision based on his estimation of his ability to serve and to function during the next six years if he were elected to the U.S. Senate.

HEMMER: Indeed, in the past though, he has shown he's a fighter, any reason to think otherwise on this one?

SCHNEIDER: Well, certainly, he was buoyant, optimistic despite this shocking news. He seemed to be in good spirits to say that this, he believes, he hopes, we all hope is treatable, and that it should not effect his ability to function as mayor.

He is going to have to make the decision. We're going to find out from him whether he thinks number one: he'll be able to campaign, number two: he'll be able to serve for the next six years in the Senate.

HEMMER: He holds the cards, we'll wait to hear from him more.

Bill Schneider thanks.

Also a thanks to Dr. Steve Salvatore again up in New York.



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