WASHINGTON — Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee known for his independent streak over more than three decades in the Senate, has brain cancer, his office disclosed Wednesday night in a statement from the Mayo Clinic.
The statement said the medical condition was discovered after McCain, 80, who was re-elected to a sixth term in November, underwent a procedure to remove a blood clot above his left eye at the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix.
“Subsequent tissue pathology revealed that a primary brain tumor known as a glioblastoma was associated with the blood clot,” the statement said. “Treatment options may include a combination of chemotherapy and radiation.”
Dr. Eugene S. Flamm, chairman of neurosurgery at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, said that “a glioblastoma is the most common and most malignant of brain tumors.”
The median survival is about 16 months, he said.
The illness of McCain, a former Navy pilot who was captured and held as a prisoner during the Vietnam War, had implications this week for the health care debate. His absence caused Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the majority leader, to postpone a floor fight until McCain returned to Washington.
The diagnosis shook the Senate, where McCain is a popular figure despite his occasionally heated disputes with colleagues in both parties.
McConnell called McCain a hero to both Senate Republicans and the nation at large.
“He has never shied from a fight, and I know that he will face this challenge with the same extraordinary courage that has characterized his life,” McConnell said Wednesday night. “We all look forward to seeing this American hero again soon.”
The disclosure on Wednesday suggested that McCain’s condition was more serious than initially believed, although the statement said that “he is recovering from his surgery ‘amazingly well,'” according to his doctors, “and his underlying health is excellent.”
McCain is the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a leading proponent of using military force overseas. The Senate is preparing to take up the annual Pentagon policy measure produced by the committee.
He is probably best known for his efforts to champion changes in campaign finance laws over the fierce objections of some of his Republican colleagues, particularly McConnell.
McCain’s office said he “appreciates the outpouring of support he has received over the last few days.”
The statement added: “He is in good spirits as he continues to recover at home with his family in Arizona. He is grateful to the doctors and staff at Mayo Clinic for their outstanding care, and is confident that any future treatment will be effective. Further consultations with Senator McCain’s Mayo Clinic care team will indicate when he will return to the United States Senate.”
Sen. Jeff Flake, his junior Republican colleague from Arizona, acknowledged the seriousness of McCain’s diagnosis in a still-hopeful tweet:
Just spoke to @SenJohnMcCain. Tough diagnosis, but even tougher man.— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) July 20, 2017