April 1st, 2008
03:40 PM ET

John McCain’s health


Watch Dr. Gupta’s report on Senator John McCain’s health on Anderson Cooper at 10 p.m. ET

Tonight, we are going to air a piece about Sen. John McCain’s health. Truth is, it has been hard to get many details about the man, as his staff has not released his medical records since 2000. We know, as I’m sure you do by now, that if he wins, he will be the oldest president ever elected. He would be 2 years and 165 days older than Ronald Reagan was at the time of his inauguration. Though, I must admit, I love that his 96-year-old mother has occasionally been on the trail with him. He is making the point that he has good genes.

You have probably also heard McCain has malignant melanoma. Our research shows that if elected, he would not be the first president to have cancer. Grover Cleveland had cancer in his jaw. Reagan had both colon cancer and skin cancer, a less serious basal cell carcinoma, on his nose.  From what we have gathered, McCain has Stage IIA melanoma, which carries an average 10-year survival rate of 66 percent. Dermatologists say McCain’s odds are better because the odds improve the longer you go without a recurrence...

If you see the pictures of his face, you will no doubt see a scar running down the left side and persistent puffiness of his left cheek. This is from the aggressive operation he had to remove the cancer as well as the lymph nodes in the area, as well as part of his parotid gland. When we show those pictures to independent doctors, some have told us an operation of that magnitude would’ve been done only for a much more serious and aggressive cancer than IIA melanoma. Other doctors disagree, saying McCain’s aggressive operation may have been done out of an abundance of caution, where doctors removed more lymph nodes and other tissue than is normally done, because he is, well, John McCain.

Tonight, we will “show” you exactly what the senator had done and why. And, based on everything we know now, we will closely examine and dissect his health. But, the larger question I discussed with my staff today: Is this really important? How important is the health of  McCain or any of the candidates for that matter? Should the medical records be more forthcoming?

– Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Chief Medical Correspondent

Program Note: Watch Dr. Gupta’s report on Senator John McCain’s health on Anderson Cooper at 10p ET

Editor’s Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.

Comments to the 360° blog are moderated. What does that mean?

Filed under: Dr. Sanjay Gupta • John McCain
soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. KC, Texas

    I don't think that anyone is exempt from having a heart attack and I don't think that age should be a determining factor in one's ability to lead.

    I have a nephew and when he was 15 he suffered 2 strokes. So that tells me that NO ONE is exempt from extenuating circumstances.

    April 2, 2008 at 10:39 am |
  2. shar

    I knew that it would only be a matter of time before age and health discrimination would become an issue. Next we will hear that because some have compared Obama to JFK that he will become an assasin's target. Looks like both need a strong and capable VP running mate.

    April 2, 2008 at 3:03 am |
  3. Rob, Arvada, CO

    I witnessed my grandmother go from completely healthy to being at her funeral in a matter of 15 months. Anything can happen while this man is in office. It's too bad Republicans chose him instead of Huckabee or Romney. Now you might have to live with your decision.

    April 2, 2008 at 12:55 am |
  4. caduceus

    Senator McCain's mental health woriies me far more than his melanoma hx.
    Senator McCain seems to be exhibiting age related memory loss. Perhaps it's actually minimal cognitive dysfunction – 80 % of patients with that diagnosis go on to manifest senile dementia.

    Detailed neuropsychological testing can reveal subtle mental status changes 8-10 years before the more flagrant symptoms of dementia are obvious. Will McCain take these tests and release the results?
    Will CNN discuss this problem?

    We have already had one president who was probably in the early stages of Alzheimer's while in the White House. While everyone thinks of memory loss in connection with Alzheimer's the earliest problems are usually with the so-called "executive functions:" critical judgments, the ability to determine a best option among a range of choices and rapid evaluation of new information.
    All critical skills in any executive.
    Required skills for a US president.
    Does McCain have them now?
    Is he in danger of losing them during the next eight years?
    Surely we, the voters, have a right to know this.

    April 1, 2008 at 11:03 pm |
  5. Annie Kate

    With all the medical advances we have now and our age expectancy rising, McCain's age does not worry me nor does his bout with melanoma. The energy he shows on the campaign trail and the endurance to keep at it day after day is a pretty convincing argument that he can handle the job of President. As long as he picks someone that would be a competent Vice President or President if needed, I would not hesitate to vote for him. 71 is not that old. It may be for a 20 year old but it really isn't that old anymore.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    April 1, 2008 at 9:45 pm |
  6. Deb

    John McCain's health is an issue, as his age. He made a comment in public that "he was like most people, I go to the doctors alot". He should be careful making those comments when there are a lot of people out here that DON'T get to go to the doctors alot, due to lack of health insurance. He made a big deal of saying he was having the media out to his vacation home. Vacation Home! He should remember that there are lots of voters out here losing their regular homes. He is one of the elite people, privileged and not understanding of the average working "joe".

    April 1, 2008 at 9:20 pm |
  7. EJ - Ohio

    Since Obama will win in November, McCain's age & health don't really matter.

    Also, those saying that age doesn't matter are delusional. If McCain was 82 years old, he wouldn't be getting too many votes.

    As we age, our abilities do suffer. McCain may not be in that age range yet but lets not pretend like (old) age does not matter.

    It is reported that Reagan's alzheimers was affecting him towards the end of his presidency. (That involved his age AND health)

    April 1, 2008 at 9:05 pm |
  8. Vaughn Samuel - Chicago

    I think we should look at candidates more on what they have to offer the country than these mundane issues like his skin cancer. I believe that as the resident of the the richesty country on earth, he will have the best medical team money can buy. McCain should be assessed on his programs to get the economy working again and his ither policies. A man is entitled to be sick.

    April 1, 2008 at 7:50 pm |
  9. Paris

    CNN is getting desperate now.
    If you have nothing to report then don’t.
    Why do you have stoop this low?

    April 1, 2008 at 7:50 pm |
  10. Judy

    John McCain's skin cancer is not the scary part. His age is.

    April 1, 2008 at 7:38 pm |
  11. Bunny

    I'm more concerned about not being able to wake him for that 3:00 a.m. phone call than I am about his cancer.

    April 1, 2008 at 5:53 pm |
  12. Dusten, South Carolina

    Melanoma is not just a disease that older people get, it is increasing in younger adults because of sun exposure and tanning devices. As far as John McCain being too old, a lot of people criticized Ronald Reagan for being too old and he is now considered the patriarch of the Republican Party. As long as someone is physically and mentally able to handle the job I think they should have the right to run. I do however think there is a time when a representative has to step aside. I am a Republican from South Carolina and I remember how Strom Thurmond stayed in office just to break a record and most of his staff was doing his work for him. I do not really understand the like between skin cancer and how McCain is not qualified to run because this disease can occur at any age so Clinton and Obama are also susceptible.

    April 1, 2008 at 5:37 pm |
  13. Marcos

    I think that he is way to old for this job. Just give up! Obama would be better anyway. Also Hillary needs to just back off!

    April 1, 2008 at 5:25 pm |
  14. Genevieve M, TX

    My favorite segments of the AC360 program are the "non-politcal" ones. I especially enjoy the health and science reports.

    That being said, I am thinking that this heatlh topic might be hitting a little "too close to home" for Anderson and many of 360's viewers. I know that Anderson reminded us yesterday, that his facial surgery was minor, not a big deal, and we should not worry about it. I am not sure about anyone else, but seeing the stitches and discoloration on his face reminds me of the seriousness of cancer and how fragile life is.

    I just think that it might have been better to wait awhile before presenting this report about John McCain and his cancer surgery– especially since it was done on his face, where Anderson also had his.

    April 1, 2008 at 5:24 pm |
  15. brittany, parker colorado

    I think that his health is going to be a major issue in this race. Joseph brought up the point that we should judge him upon merit, instead of age and while I respect his opinion I think age is important. It at least makes his VP running mate highly important. Until he discloses the information regarding his health, I don't think that guessing helps anyone.

    I'm looking forward to hearing the facts instead of the same old... he would be the oldest president.

    April 1, 2008 at 5:10 pm |
  16. Slater

    I think he deserves a shot at the presidency, irrespective of his health. What if he, along with being a two time war hero, was sporting a prosthesis as a leg? Or arm? And he lost one of them as a result of his protecting our country in combat?

    I like McCain. He is not a stuffed shirt like the Bush's. Who cares if he is old? The older the wiser, and, hey, he has the hottest Wife since Jacki – O! His wife takes great care of herself, says all the right things (as she should be diplomatic..it is his presid4ential race, after all), and she seems down to earth. I heard the story of how they took in one of their daughters – these are the down to earth people I want at the helm!

    Who cares if he has cancer...can't any one of us expire at any given time with no warning?

    April 1, 2008 at 5:07 pm |
  17. Vicky

    Really interested in this story about Senator McCain. If there was a high probability that his cancer would recur or spread and impact his ability to fulfill a term as president, then it would have great importance. Given the incidence of skin cancer, though melanoma is quite serious, and the history in past presidents, I'm not sure he should be excluded on that basis alone. I think we underestimate what people over the age of 65 still have to offer. I'm wondering how long it's been since his surgery, as you mentioned the 10-year survival rate was 66 percent, and certainly the longer he goes the better. Wondering if you're also going to address a bit about skin cancer. Shout out to Anderson, as I've had recent surgery for a second basal cell carcinoma on my face, in about the same location as his. Though he seems to be taking it in stride, it's not easy to have someone cut at your face. I can empathize with Senator McCain's reference to Frankenstein, though my thoughts were more along the lines of Bride of Frankenstein. It's amazing though how the face heals and scars fade and minimize. How did Senator McCain first notice the cancer, and how closely is he followed? I know the appearance of basal cell cancer was quite different amongst the spots I've had.

    April 1, 2008 at 4:59 pm |
  18. Pantsuit Lady

    Americans need to know about a potential President's health BEFORE he is elected. Why? Because with any other disease, but especially a disease like cancer, we need assurances that the person elected to our highest office would not become ill or actually die while in that office. So if John McCain were to suddenly take ill just after he was elected, say in March, his VP would be leading the country, and that person might be just the opposite of what Americans want. This is why it's detrimental, or should be, to ALL Americans, that a potential President can pass a health exam, and with flying colors.

    Love you Sanjay! You are one of the shining lights of CNN. They couldn't have done better!

    April 1, 2008 at 4:51 pm |
  19. Hicks, Fort Myers

    I wouldn't care if he had to be dragged in on a cot!!

    I'd rather have him serving as President than either Obama or Clinton. As infirmed as he may well become–he has the expertise, the will, and the political credit at home and abroad to lead us through these very troubling times.

    Without steering us towards socialism, and without losing the faith of our world allies in the war on terror.

    April 1, 2008 at 4:44 pm |
  20. Cindy

    I don't think that it really matters if John won't release his medical records. As long as he says he is OK and so do his doctors then that is good enough for me. We don't have to know every little thing about them. Sometimes I think we takes things way too far!

    Looking forward to seeing this report.

    Cynthia, Covington, Ga.

    April 1, 2008 at 4:04 pm |
  21. Taj

    So what if he is 76 & has Malanoma. If he is going to die in office the VP will take over & then we have the speaker of the house. If you think he is best for you or the country, vote for him. Don't worry. He may live to be 106. I (Democrat) think he is a good man, may end up being not a very smart president. Who can be any worse than GW? Oh! man did he screw up this great nation!

    April 1, 2008 at 4:03 pm |
  22. SUNNY

    He must have some good genes if his mother is 96!

    My grandmother died of Melanoma. It stated as a spot on her leg half way down below the knee. The thing was, she never wore shorts, always pants and panty hose. I agree with what the press has been saying about the sun. I don't think it's always the case. People have to have the sun for their bones.

    I guess it's just like any other cancer; people who get lung cancer doesn't always smoke and people who get liver cancer doesn't always drink.

    I didn't know McCain could be the oldest ever! Undecided

    It's very interesting though.

    April 1, 2008 at 3:55 pm |
  23. Joseph Kowalski, North Huntingdon, PA

    I have some severe reservations about John McCain becoming the next President, but his age isn't one of them.

    A person's age should have no bearing on whether he is qualified for a job. The person's experience, abilities, character, and overall mental and physical state are much more important.

    Death can strike at any age. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama could also die while in office. There are no guarantees in life.

    April 1, 2008 at 3:54 pm |