​Family history of cancer eyed in Jimmy Carter diagnosis

NEW YORK -- Former President Jimmy Carter announced Wednesday that he has cancer and that it has spread. The 90-year-old said he will be getting treatment at Emory Healthcare in Atlanta.

President Carter announced on August 3 that he had a procedure "to remove a small mass in his liver." In a statement released Tuesday, Carter said the surgery revealed the cancer.

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The statement did not say what type of cancer the former president has and whether it began in the liver or spread there from another part of the body.

Mr. Carter has a strong family history of pancreatic cancer. His three siblings and father died from it.

Family history is important to consider because it increases his chance of getting it himself. In fact, one study found that people with three or more close relatives with pancreatic cancer had a 57 times increased chance of getting it themselves.

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Pancreatic cancer can spread to the liver, but so can many other cancers, especially those in the gastrointestinal tract, like esophagus and colon.

Depending on where the cancer began, there's chemotherapy that can be given. Of course, doctors will have to take into account his age and overall medical condition in designing the regimen.

  • Jon Lapook
    Jonathan LaPook

    Dr. Jonathan LaPook is the chief medical correspondent for the CBS Evening News. Follow him on Twitter at @DrLaPook