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White House Spokesman to Undergo Surgery

JENNIFER LOVEN | March 23, 2007 09:25 PM EST | AP

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WASHINGTON — Presidential spokesman Tony Snow is undergoing surgery Monday to remove a small growth in his lower abdomen, a procedure he said was being done "out of an aggressive sense of caution" because he had colon cancer two years ago.

Snow said Friday that cancer tests have been negative since the growth _ about the size of the tip of his small finger _ was discovered in his lower right pelvic area. He said he feels fine but decided to have it removed now rather than having to continue monitoring it.

"Please do not leap to conclusions about this because we don't know what this is," Snow told reporters. "We know it's coming out and I know I'll be back soon."

Snow, 51, had his colon removed in 2005 and underwent six months of chemotherapy after being diagnosed with colon cancer. He and his wife have three young children.

Snow undergoes regular tests, including a PET imaging scan to help doctors see how organs and tissues are functioning, magnetic resonance imaging tests, and CAT scans to generate cross-sectional views and, if needed, three-dimensional images.

These scans revealed the growth in September. Though it has grown in size since, blood tests and further PET scans have not indicated a return of his cancer. He said it could merely be biopsied to see if it is cancerous, and then periodically checked afterward if not, but that he would rather just have it out.

"Out of an aggressive sense of caution I'm going to go in for surgery," Snow said.

The press secretary joked about Monday's surgery, which will reveal whether his cancer has returned with the growth and possibly around it as well, saying he would "come back here a little lighter" than before. But it's not a minor procedure, and it will keep Snow away from the White House for several weeks, in the hospital for about a week and recovering at home after that.

Deputy press secretary Dana Perino will assume Snow's duties in his absence.

The news came a day after Elizabeth Edwards, wife of Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, announced that her breast cancer has returned in an incurable, but treatable, form. Her husband's campaign will go forward.

"The biggest problem you have sometimes with cancer is flat-out fear," Snow said. "When you see an Elizabeth Edwards saying, 'I'm going to embrace life and I'm going to move forward,' that is a wonderful thing."

After hearing the news, John and Elizabeth Edwards called Snow, during a refueling stop in Salina, Kan., on their way to Los Angeles, to express their support and concern, said Edwards adviser Jennifer Palmieri.