CBSN

Sen. Kerry 's Surgery A Success

Sen. John Kerry, D-MA, speaks on NBC's 'Meet the Press' during a taping at the NBC studios in Washington, DC., Dec. 1, 2002. Sen. Kerry, a Vietnam veteran and former prosecutor, said he will take his first step on running for president in 2004 by forming an exploratory committee this week.
AP
Sen. John Kerry successfully underwent surgery Wednesday to treat an early form of prostate cancer, his doctor reported, saying that "everything went well" and that the Democratic presidential hopeful can leave the hospital in a few days.

"Everything came out very nicely. Everything looked completely contained," said Dr. Patrick Walsh, the chief of urology at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, who performed the surgery. Walsh said Kerry will not require follow-up radiation treatment and should be able to get on with his presidential campaign very soon.

The 59-year-old Kerry, who disclosed his diagnosis on Tuesday, vowed to return to work within a matter of days and said he would continue his campaign for the White House.

Joining the doctor at a hospital news conference, Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, said her husband was in "good spirits" and relieved that the surgery had gone well. In a reference to his Vietnam experience, she said her husband does well in battle.

The surgery complicates Kerry's effort to win the Democratic presidential nomination but, with the first voting still 11 months away, aides characterized it as a minor setback. Kerry, whose father died of prostate cancer while he was in his 80s, said Tuesday that the diagnosis would have "no impact at all" on his campaign.

"I am lucky," Kerry said. "I'm going to be cured."

But some Democrats said the diagnosis could raise questions about whether he is physically fit to lead the country.

"If it is indeed true that he will be able to rebound quickly, I don't think he'll miss a whole lot," said Joe Shannahan, a Democratic activist in Iowa, where Bill Bradley's 2000 Democratic campaign was dogged by questions about the former New Jersey senator's irregular heart beat. "But there are people who will take a second look at him now because health is very important in a presidential candidate."

Kerry is among a long list of public figures diagnosed with prostate cancer, including retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, FBI Director Robert Mueller, New York Yankees manager Joe Torre and former Sen. Bob Dole, the 1996 Republican presidential nominee.

Dole managed to wage a vigorous campaign five years after his surgery, but former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani abandoned his plans to run for the Senate in 2000 after being diagnosed with the disease.

"This is very early in the campaign situation. It's a year and a half away," said Giuliani, who spoke to Kerry by phone Tuesday. "He should be able to make whatever situation he wants to make. It should not interfere in any significant way with his future."

At least five other Democrats are running for the presidential nomination, and Sen. Bob Graham of Florida may enter the race after recovering from Jan. 31 heart surgery. Graham and presidential hopefuls Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri, Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina sent Kerry best wishes for a speedy recovery.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said President Bush, whom Kerry hopes to oust next year, "wishes him the best of health."

About 220,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year, and 28,900 will die, the American Cancer Society estimates. It is the second-leading cancer killer of men, behind lung cancer, and risk increases with each decade of age beyond 50. But caught early, it is highly curable.

Surgery is the most common treatment when the cancer that has not yet spread beyond the prostate, a doughnut-shaped gland that surrounds the urethra and is involved in semen production. But it is a rigorous operation that will keep Kerry in the hospital for about three days.