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Doctors Proclaim McCain's Surgery a Success

Aired August 19, 2000 - 7:07 p.m. ET


BRIAN NELSON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Brian Nelson at the CNN Center in Atlanta.

We'll get back to "CAPITAL GANG" in just a moment, but we want to take you to the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, Arizona, where the wife of John McCain, Cindy McCain, is now briefing reporters on her husband's condition.

Let's listen in.


CINDY MCCAIN, WIFE OF JOHN MCCAIN: ... all of my prayers have been answered. My husband is in wonderful shape. And as you have heard, and Dr. Eckstein is going to tell you a little more in detail, we have a wonderful report.

He came in this morning joking and with his incredible spirit and his remarkable zest for life. He has kept all of us in stitches all morning. I just left him in recovery. He's in his room now, and he was cracking jokes and making all of us feel very silly for having worried about him all week. But he's, as you know -- and all of you who have traveled with us, you know him very well -- he's a very tough individual.

He came in hungry this morning, you can imagine, but he was full of vim and vinegar. And most importantly, I love to see him wake up with the same kind of spirit that he went to sleep with.

On behalf of the McCain family, I would like to thank the thousands of well wishers that have encouraged us throughout these days and have called us and sent things and been so kind to keep us in their thoughts and prayers and have sent so many of gifts of love.

And I might also like to add, I'd like to thank the people of Mayo. It's been an incredibly challenging for the folks at Mayo and certainly for the McCain family. And they have made us feel not only comfortable in facing something like this, but they have also made us feel like we could jump any hurdle that came in front of us if we needed to. And I wanted to thank the people of Mayo very much.

And I would also like to please ask the folks, any folks that are considering sending us things or might consider flowers or anything else, to please not do that and please send your thoughts and your donations to the American Cancer Society and direct it towards the continued research for skin cancer.

This is obviously something our family has faced in great detail and now with great strength, I hope. And I would like to encourage those who have not had their cancer screening and who have not had their skin tested, please do so immediately.

And most importantly, I would like to thank the gentleman to my left and the person that you're going to meet right away. And this is our personal physician, who has either had the good luck or misfortune, depending on how you look at it, to have the McCain family as his patients for many years, and that's Dr. John Eckstein. He will be filling you in as to what took place today and what we have faced and what we are looking at now, which is good news.

And again, I would like to thank all of you, because I know that you have been interested in what's going on all week, and you've certainly been curious. And I know that we've kept you at bay a bit. And I hope you understand. Because we didn't know anything, we didn't feel like we could tell you anything. And I want to thank you for your encouragement also, because many of you have said so.

And with that, I'd liked to introduce Dr. John Eckstein of the Mayo Clinic.


Good afternoon. My name is Dr. John Eckstein, and I'm Senator McCain's general internist at Mayo Clinic Scottsdale.

At the senator and Mrs. McCain's request, I am pleased to report that he is out of surgery and doing very well. I just saw him in the recovery room, and he's in excellent spirits. In fact, he is back in his room now up on the floor. He is talking straight again after general anesthesia. In fact, when I asked him if he wanted me to pass anything along to you, he said, call Trent Lott. I know he'll be on pins and needles.

The surgery was without complications and went exactly as expected. As you know, two new malignant melanomas were recently discovered. One was on his left temple and the other was on his left upper arm. Beginning Thursday at Mayo Clinic Scottsdale, the senator had a thorough preoperative evaluation, including tests and examinations, all of which were normal. This evaluation also included a review by numerous specialists with expertise in the care and treatment of melanoma. These physicians are my colleagues throughout Mayo Clinic, including Mayo Clinic Jacksonville, Mayo Clinic Rochester, and of course at Mayo Clinic Scottsdale.

This morning, Senator McCain had surgery at this hospital, Mayo Clinic Hospital, to remove the two melanomas. The surgery was performed by a team of surgeons headed by Dr. Michael Hinney (ph), who is a head and neck cancer surgeon. The removal of the melanoma from the left arm was a simple excision. The removal of the melanoma from the left temple, as planned, was more extensive and also included removal of some of the lymph nodes from the face and neck. We are pleased to let you know that the preliminary report on the lymph nodes, including the first draining lymph node, the so-called "sentinel node," was clear without any evidence of melanoma cells.

However, it will take several days to fully evaluate the removed surgical tissue.

At Senator McCain's request, we will provide more information when it becomes available. And rather than answer further questions at this time, we have available for you a more detailed statement of the events surrounding the surgery today. It would be premature to speculate on other aspects of any future plans until our pathologists have completed their thorough examination and evaluation of all the surgical tissue that was removed today.

But certainly at this time, we are very optimistic and are very pleased for Senator and Mrs. McCain.

Thanks very much.


ECKSTEIN: I anticipate that he will probably be released from the hospital in the next two to three days.

QUESTION: Not tomorrow?

ECKSTEIN: Not tomorrow.


ECKSTEIN: We don't have a final pathology on that information yet.

QUESTION: The one in the temple was an (OFF-MIKE)

ECKSTEIN: The one in the temple was the deeper leagues.

QUESTION: Did it go -- how far into -- we don't know how far into...

ECKSTEIN: We don't have that information yet.

QUESTION: How long was the surgery?

ECKSTEIN: The surgery was five and a half hours.

QUESTION: Why did it take so long?

ECKSTEIN: The surgery was very detailed surgery. Dr. Hinney spent an extraordinary amount of time preserving the very crucial nerve on the face and making sure that all branches of that nerve were preserved.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) ECKSTEIN: It controls the muscle function of the face. Again, all this information is provided in the detailed report which you will be receiving right now, and I think it will answer many of your questions.

QUESTION: Do you know if it was stage one, two or three?

ECKSTEIN: Again, that will depend on the final pathology report, but at this point, we are very, very optimistic that all the tumor was removed.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) get the word out, the message to all sorts of people about getting checked. Could you just run through for us what are some of Senator McCain's risk factors? Are they the types of things that many other people might also have?

ECKSTEIN: I think as Senator McCain said preoperatively, stay out of the sun and use sunscreen, avoid a very, very bad sunburn.

QUESTION: I don't know if this is on there or not (OFF-MIKE) has the technique worked (OFF-MIKE)

ECKSTEIN: The preliminary sections were frozen sections, and now the more detailed analysis will take place over the next two days. No, surgery was not used -- not used.

The frozen sections of all the specimens were negative. Thanks very much.

QUESTION: With regard to activities, how soon will he be able to resume full activities?

ECKSTEIN: We can't say that at this point. Again, the next couple of days in terms of the wound are important, and we look forward to the senator eating this evening and being up tomorrow.

QUESTION: I had a question for Mrs. McCain. (OFF-MIKE) Your husband comes in, goes into a crowd, you don't see him. What's the first thing he said to you when he saw you? What were the first words out of his mouth?

MCCAIN: Well, I walked into the recovery room, and I -- you know, for me, I just wanted to be able to see him. And he looked up, and he said, hey, how's it going? I mean, he was -- his eyes weren't open, but he was very alert. And he was very cognizant what was going on around him. And he was cracking jokes and teasing me in a personal fashion that he does and I'm not going to tell you about, but he was very gregarious in there.

QUESTION: Doctor, was his melanoma on the left temple in exactly the same place where he had the benign lesion removed two years ago?

ECKSTEIN: The -- yes, the melanoma that was -- the spot that was biopsied two years ago was in the same location. And at that time, a thorough review of those slides did not show the melanoma cells at that time. QUESTION: Have they been re-reviewed now?

ECKSTEIN: They have been re-reviewed, yes.


ECKSTEIN: I don't have that information. There are a number of stitches, but I don't have that.

QUESTION: Why would the melanoma -- why does it come back in the very same spot?

ECKSTEIN: Well, this is a new melanoma.

QUESTION: It is a new one, but why does a new one occur in that same spot? What is it about that?

ECKSTEIN: Well it didn't -- again, this is a new melanoma. The melanoma that Senator McCain had on his shoulder in 1993 was from the left shoulder. From that melanoma, as I said in a prior statement, I believe he is cured from that melanoma. These were two new melanomas.

QUESTION: Some very good news for Senator John McCain from his personal physician, who's a member of the Mayo Clinic but not a member of the operating team who worked on him today, and his wife Cindy.

Senator McCain is resting in his room right now in post-op, after being in post-op. He is doing very well, excellent spirits. The surgeons who worked on him today for five and a half hours managed to remove both of the cancerous growth on his skin. Initial assessments said that there has been no spread of that cancer into the lymph nodes, which is a good sign. But the doctor says that there will be more study and examination by pathologists still to come before they can make a definitive assessment as to the senator's condition.

He will remain in the hospital for two to three days before he gets back out, hopefully on the campaign trail, he's eager to do so, and we will continue to update you on his condition.

And right now, we'll return you to "CAPITAL GANG," which is in progress.



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