Senator McCain Diagnosed with Rare Brain Cancer, Glioblastoma

Senator McCain has been a prisoner of war, has had a history of melanoma, and is 80 years old, so last Friday’s routine check-up didn’t end up being so routine. In case you haven’t been following this story, all we knew before today was that doctors performed a “minimally invasive surgery” to remove a blood clot near the senator’s head.

This “minimally invasive surgery,” however, was actually a “craniotomy with an eyebrow incision,” which entailed removing the bone behind the eyebrow and exposing the brain. Once the brain was exposed, surgeons were able to remove the two-inch blood clot that they found above the Senator’s left eye near the frontal lobes of the brain. After the surgery, Senator McCain was supposedly in good spirits and recovering well.

Regardless, even though this surgery was relatively “minimally invasive,” any surgery in which the brain is exposed is cause for concern, and adding to the concern is a bunch of questions surrounding this blood clot.

Dr. Nrupen Baxi, an assistant professor of neurosurgery at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City echoes this concern when he explained,

“Usually a blood clot like this is discovered when patients have symptoms, whether it’s a seizure or headaches or weakness or speech difficulties. […] Generally, it’s not found on a routine physical [like the one McCain had] because doctors would not know to look for it.”

The hunt for potential symptoms of this clot led the media to McCain’s interrogation of James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, where McCain befuddled Comey in a very confusing line of questioning, and then claimed that it was because he was up all night watching baseball. In hindsight, it seems probable that McCain’s speech problems may have sparked doctors to examine him with extra concern.

Fast forward to today: the pathology reports from the craniotomy are back, and we now know that the blood clot was glioblastoma, a highly malignant form of brain cancer.

The good news is that scans done since last Friday’s procedure indicate that doctors were able to remove all of the tumor tissue, but glioblastoma spreads quickly since there is such a large network of blood vessels in the brain.

Even microscopic pieces of gliomas can spread deep into the brain by the time the cancer has been diagnosed, so because of the nature of the cancer, McCain will also likely need to complete chemotherapy and radiation.

It is possible that McCain could return to the Senate while undergoing treatment, but unfortunately, according to many doctors, the prognosis for glioblastoma is dim.

Even so, former president Barack Obama tweeted this morning:

“John McCain is an American hero & one of the bravest fighters I’ve ever known. Cancer doesn’t know what it’s up against. Give it hell, John.”

We should all have similar faith in the Senator.

Get well soon.

Source: Giphy

To read more about the Senator’s procedure from the New York Times, click here.

To read more about his diagnosis from NBC News, click here.


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