"Senator Arlen Specter today announced that he has been diagnosed with an early recurrence of Hodgkin's disease," the senator's office announced in a statement today. "Hodgkin's disease is a cancer of the lymph system."
Senator Specter's recurrence was diagnosed based on a routine follow-up PET scan (Positron Emission Tomography) which showed small lymph nodes in his chest and abdomen. A follow-up biopsy of one of the chest lymph nodes was positive for recurrence. A bone marrow biopsy was negative.
Senator Specter has had no symptoms of Hodgkin's disease aside from the PET scan findings. Based on the location of the recurrence and the absence of symptoms, his lymphoma is considered stage IIIA. This is significantly less advanced than his Hodgkin's disease when it was originally diagnosed in 2005, when it was stage IVB. At that time, he was treated with 6 months of ABVD chemotherapy, and obtained a complete remission which lasted 3 years. Senator Specter will now receive the Stanford V protocol of chemotherapy weekly over the next 12 weeks.
It is expected that Senator Specter will continue to perform all the duties of his office as well as his activities associated with his candidacy for re-election.
Senator Specter's oncologist, John H. Glick, M.D. of the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania, said: "Senator Specter has an excellent chance of again achieving a complete remission of his Hodgkin's disease. Senator Specter's early diagnosis of his recurrent Hodgkin's disease has a five- year survival rate of 60 percent. He is in superb physical condition, with a normal physical examination and blood work, no symptoms of disease, plays squash regularly and follows a careful diet." Dr. Glick is Professor of Medicine at Penn and a nationally renowned expert in Hodgkin's disease.
Senator Specter said: "I was surprised by the PET scan findings because I have been feeling so good. I consider this just another bump on the road to a successful recovery from Hodgkin's, from which I've been symptom free for 3 years." Senator Specter had successful surgery for a brain tumor in 1993, which recurred in 1996 and was successfully treated. In 1998, in the middle of a re-election campaign, he underwent bypass surgery and post-operatively suffered cardiac arrest, from which he fully recovered. "I've beaten some tough medical problems and tough political opponents and I expect to beat this too. I look forward to getting through this treatment and continuing to serve the people of Pennsylvania," Specter said.
Specter recently published a book, "Never Give In: Battling Cancer in the Senate," chronicling his long-time struggle with Hodgkin's disease. During an appearance on "Hardball" with Chris Matthews earlier this month, Specter brought along a photo of himself shaking President Bush's hand to illustrate one of the lessons of his book.
In the photo a bald and visibly ill Specter can be seen shaking hands with a clearly reluctant Bush, who noticeably keeps his distance with his arm fully extended. "He's keeping you at arms length," Matthews laughed. Why was he doing so? Specter offered several theories of what might have been going through Bush's mind at that moment, for example: "He's the chairman, I guess I got to shake his hand."
Watch the clip.
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