By Thomas Kim and Tim Keefe
BALTIMORE – Gov. Parris N. Glendening recovered well from surgery to remove a malignant melanoma from his scalp Friday, and doctors said his prognosis is “excellent.”
Glendening, 59, was in surgery for about six hours at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, and was “up and talking” in the recovery room late Friday afternoon, doctors said.
The governor’s dermatologist, Dr. Eric Finzi, discovered a lesion on the governor’s scalp during a routine examination in mid-January.
That led to a biopsy, the results of which Glendening received on Feb. 1, showing the lesion was malignant melanoma.
“It turns out we caught the lesion at a very, very early stage,” Finzi said. “I’d like to stress that the governor’s prognosis is excellent,” adding that there was “less than a 3 percent chance” of any follow-up therapy.
The governor’s personal physician shared Finzi’s optimism.
“It was just in its infancy,” said Dr. Richard Lilly, who recommended the governor have the skin examination. “There’s excellent optimism that the governor will put this behind him.”
Doctors removed the melanoma, the size of a silver dollar, and surrounding tissue from Glendening’s scalp, then covered the area with a graft of skin from the governor’s right thigh.
The governor will continue his recovery at the hospital before returning home to Annapolis, where he is expected to complete his recovery next week, said Michelle Byrnie, the governor’s press secretary.
“Knowing him, he’ll go straight back to work as soon as he gets back to Annapolis,” Byrnie said.
Executive authority has been transferred to Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who will serve as acting governor during Glendening’s absence, Byrnie said.
Townsend will continue her normal duties as lieutenant governor in addition to assuming many of the governor’s responsibilities, such as swearing in new State Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp Thursday.
Although the governor’s surgery occurred during the middle of the General Assembly session, “the business of the state will continue as usual” under Townsend, said Alan H. Fleischmann, her chief of staff.
“Her number No. 1 concern is for the governor and his speedy recovery,” Fleischmann said, adding that Townsend has assumed the governor’s duties “dozens of times” in Glendening’s absence.
Melanoma is the most common and aggressive form of skin cancer because it can spread quickly to other parts of the body, according to a National Cancer Institute Web site.
The number of cases in the United States has more than doubled in the last 20 years, according to NCI. The disease is highly curable if detected early.
Glendening joins a group of prominent politicians who have recently had surgery to combat skin cancer.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., had a benign lesion excised from his nose Monday, less than two years after the removal of two malignant melanoma tumors from his temple and arm in August 2000.
President Bush had seven lesions removed from his face last year. Five were of a type considered potentially cancerous and two were non-cancerous.
Melanoma is usually caused by exposure to the sun, and is more common in those with fair skin and individuals with a history of melanoma in their family, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Glendening grew up in Florida, where he was often active outdoors, which likely helped cause the cancer, Finzi said.
“If you spend much time outdoors, eventually you’re going to get it,” Finzi said.
Melanoma survivors have a high risk of recurrence or developing a new melanoma, according to NCI.
The governor will undergo routine skin exams to search for melanoma, the doctors said.
Glendening’s wife of two weeks, Jennifer, waited at the hospital during the surgery.
“My spirits are high and I am very optimistic,” the governor said in a statement. “Jennifer and I thank the many people who have already extended their well wishes.”