Clinton Had Cancerous Lesion

Washington Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman recovers after slipping to throw out Florida Marlins' Dontrelle Willis at first base in the second inning of their baseball game, Monday, April 2, 2007, at RFK Stadium in Washington.
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A lesion on President Clinton's back has been confirmed as skin cancer, the White House said Tuesday.

CBS News Correspondent Mark Knoller reports the news came four days after Mr. Clinton's last medical checkup as president, when doctors at Bethesda Naval Hospital in suburban Maryland removed a suspicious lesion from the president's back.

White House press secretary Jake Siewert said pathology results confirmed the diagnosis of basal cell carcinoma, but added that the doctors believe they got it all.

"This is a relatively common form of skin cancer, 800,000 to 1 million cases a year," Siewert said. "The lesion was removed, so while the president, it can be said, had skin cancer, that has been removed and he no longer has it."

When doctors removed the lesion, the tissue around it also was treated with a "scraping and burning" technique, a common procedure, Siewert said.

He said pathologists noted that the entire lesion was removed and that the possibility of recurrence is low.

Mr. Clinton will have a follow-up visit with the dermatologist in six months, Siewert said.

"If there's no evidence of new lesions at that time, it will be followed up on an annual basis," he said.

Dr. David Corbett, retired chair of the Bethesda Naval Hospital's dermatology department, said last week that Mr. Clinton "had sun-damage spots before but this is the first time he's had spots suspicious for skin cancer."

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"Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer," Corbett said. "It's a little locally growing type of skin cancer, not a threat to his health or anything. It's a very small spot."

After his final presidential physical, doctors also reported that Mr. Clinton's cholesterol was up despite his weighing the same as he did during his last physical in 1999.

Aside from the lesion and his high cholesterol, the outgoing president is i good health and ready to resume life as a regular citizen, the doctors said. They said the president would be put on medication to lower his cholesterol.

Basal cell carcinoma is the most curable form of skin cancer. It is a slow-growing cancer usually confined to the surface of skin — and thus doctors almost always can remove it all with a shallow incision.

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), "Basal cell cancers may spread to tissues around the cancer, but it usually does not spread to other parts of the body."

Basal cells are small, round cells found in the lower part of the epidermis or outer skin layer.

The sun-caused tumors usually begin as a small, waxlike nodule on the skin, sometimes looking like pearly white scars. They also can form scabs that alternately bleed and heal.

NCI lists several treatment options, including surgery to remove the cancer, use of an electric current to dehydrate the tumor, cyrosurgery involving freezing the tumor, radiation therapy, laser therapy, chemotherapy, or a method called photodynamic therapy, which uses light-sensitive drugs to kill the cancer.

"It is important to have the skin examined regularly so the cancer can be treated if it comes back," says an NCI reference guide on basal cell cancer.

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