In the hours following Wednesday night’s announcement that Arizona Sen. John McCain is in the fight of his life battling what the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix called a “glioblastoma,” there has been a national outpouring of support for the 80-year-old Capitol Hill veteran.
There has also been some hatemongering on social media, as reported by colleague Joe Newby here, and one somewhat questionable email promotion from Newsmax headlined, “Can John McCain survive brain cancer?” It’s a little about McCain and a lot about Newsmax Health.
According to Fox News, glioblastoma multiforme is “an aggressive form of brain cancer that is rare and typically occurs in adults.” The report quoted the American Brain Tumor Association, which noted there are “about 12,390 new cases a year” in this country.
Sen. McCain’s cancer was discovered when doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix removed a blood clot over his left eye, apparently an indication that the tumor was growing.
Underscoring the senator’s challenge was the notation that, “Patients with this aggressive form of cancer face a grim survival rate. About 4 percent of patients over age 55 live for five years.”
Fox News reported that doctors were able to remove all of the tumor that showed up on brain scans, but this kind of brain cancer can “plant microscopic roots that go deeper into the brain tissue, making the tumors aggressive and hard to target.”
Network talking heads have been almost universally sympathetic to McCain’s plight, and he tweeted Thursday morning, “I greatly appreciate the outpouring of support – unfortunately for my sparring partners in Congress, I’ll be back soon, so stand-by!”
In a discussion Wednesday night with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, neurosurgeon Dr. Andrew Sloan said this form of cancer constitutes about two percent of all cancer, but it becomes more common with age. He further noted that there are more aggressive ways to fight cancer today than there were in the past, and he also suggested that people who are “fighters” — as McCain has been described — tend to do better in battling this type of cancer.
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McCain is a melanoma survivor, but according to Fox News, “doctors classified this new cancer as a ‘primary tumor,’ meaning it’s not related to his former malignancies.”
The New York Times quoted Eugene S. Flamm, chairman of neurosurgery at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, who said the “median survival” of this form of cancer is “about 16 months.” This is apparently the same type of brain tumor that claimed Sen. Edward M. Kennedy in 2009.