John McCain was at the center of politics in 2008, when he ran as the Republican presidential candidate against Obama. And with Trump’s many controversial policies, the spotlight comes back to McCain’s opposition from time to time. Since July, however, reporters have been focusing on McCain for a different reason: his cancer diagnosis.
He doesn’t talk about it much, but his rare and deadly form of brain cancer is leaving many wondering how much longer he has to live (page 5). Here are the details regarding his prognosis.
1. McCain has glioblastoma, a very rare cancer
McCain publicly announced his diagnosis in July 2017, and his hospitalization in December caused quite a stir amongst the media, AARP notes. The senator has glioblastoma, which is a particularly aggressive form of cancer that makes up about 15% of all brain tumors.
While other cancers will spread, glioblastoma doesn’t. It instead stays in the brain and deteriorates it, which can cause personality changes, seizures, and diminished mental capacity. Shockingly enough, this type of cancer is also on the rise and is more common in men over age 50.
Next: McCain isn’t giving up the fight just yet.
2. He’s received treatments and seems to be making a comeback
McCain has become increasingly frail as the cancer takes its toll, Newsweek reports. But he is receiving treatments, which have included both chemotherapy and radiation. And sources say it’s very common for someone with this type of tumor to experience a severe change in appearance.
Those around the senator are feeling positive regarding his recovery, however. Senator Lindsey Graham said he’s “very confident” McCain will continue to participate in politics “for a long time to come.” And McCain’s daughter, Meghan, says her father has “made this incredible comeback,” azcentral.com says.
Next: This one thing is really jeopardizing McCain’s health.
3. The flu season threatened McCain’s health even more
The 2018 flu season was one of the worst — and for someone with a compromised immune system, this made him even more susceptible.
Azcentral.com reports McCain had to stay in Arizona for much of the winter due to the threat of the flu in Washington, D.C. His daughter, Meghan, is remaining optimistic though, saying he should be able to come back to the capital “at some point.” McCain hasn’t been back to Capitol Hill since December 2017, so the senator is looking forward to getting back to what he loves.
Next: Here’s how McCain’s mental health is doing.
4. His daughter says his mental health is still strong, too
Due to the location of McCain’s cancer, it’s expected he’ll see some cognitive decline as it progresses. But according to his daughter, he’s still as sharp as ever. Azcentral.com notes during a podcast interview, she says the two of them talk politics all the time. “But he’s very present,” she adds. “Mentally, he’s 100% there.”
CNN reports that his reduced energy hasn’t gone unnoticed by his colleagues, however. Sources note he used to speak up during meetings, but back in December, he seemingly lacked in participation. Hopefully it was just physical fatigue instead of mental.
Next: Doctors suspect McCain might have this much time left to live.
5. Based on the average person, this is how long McCain might have
Since McCain was diagnosed back in July, that puts him several months into treatment already. And the fact that he’s still going as strong as he is has surprised many. AARP notes the median survival rate for glioblastoma is 15 months. Only 10% of patients with this type of cancer live beyond five years.
Newsweek says during a 60 Minutes interview, McCain comments on his survival rate. “Some say 3%, some say 14%. You know — it’s a very poor prognosis,” he says. “Now we’re going to do what we can, get the best doctors we can find and do the best we can.”
Next: This is the same cancer that killed another famous politician’s son.
6. It’s the same type of cancer that killed Joe Biden’s son
When McCain received his grim prognosis, he saw solidarity from another politician — Joe Biden. The Washington Examiner reports Biden’s late son Beau had the same type of cancer McCain has. Unfortunately, the cancer took Beau Biden’s life. “John and I have been friends for 40 years,” Biden says. “He is strong — and he will beat this.”
Beau Biden isn’t the only famous person to develop glioblastoma, either. AARP notes Ted Kennedy and a number of Major League Baseball players also developed it.
Next: Here’s the scary truth about brain cancer.
7. Brain cancer numbers are on the rise
Brain cancer may not be on your radar the way other types are, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore the signs and symptoms. This type of cancer occurs when there’s an abnormal growth of cells in the brain, says eMedicineHealth. While this cancer can develop in the brain itself, it can also start in other organs, then travel there via the bloodstream.
Treating brain cancer can be a complex process involving neurosurgeons, oncologists, and neurologists. Unfortunately, the symptoms are so numerous that most people do not know they have a serious disease. Headaches, muscle weakness, and clumsiness can all occur, but because they are so general, few people attribute them to cancer.
In 2017 alone, an estimated 23,800 new cases will be diagnosed and 16,700 cases overall will prove fatal.
Next: There are other famous politicians who have had brain issues.
8. Ted Kennedy brought a heightened awareness to the disease
When it comes to 20th and 21st-century senators, none were more high-profile than Senator Ted Kennedy. On top of being a member of an American political dynasty and serving the state of Massachusetts for nearly 50 years, Kennedy spent his final year publicly battling a brain tumor. Like McCain, he chose to work while battling the disease. He died in 2009 at age 77.
Next: This president had brain issues while in office.
9. President Woodrow Wilson suffered multiple strokes
While McCain ran for president several times, he never quite made it to the Oval Office. But a former president had serious brain issues while in office. Wilson suffered a series of strokes leaving him paralyzed in both legs and blind in one eye. After one stroke in particular, a year went by before Wilson could write normally again. Wilson’s wife and first lady, Edith, helped Wilson perform presidential duties. Unlike McCain’s very public battle, however, Wilson (and his entire administration) tried to keep his ailments a secret. He died from a stroke in 1924 at age 67.
Next: Will researchers ever find a cure for glioblastoma?
10. The future looks bright for glioblastoma patients
While standard chemotherapy and radiation are still the norm for treating glioblastoma, AARP notes the future’s looking brighter. Clinical trial are in place to test new vaccines, gene therapy, and viruses that may be able to kill the tumors. And a new therapy may be able to strengthen the patient’s immune system so it can attack the tumors. With the combination of helping the immune system and fighting the cancer cells, researchers are hopeful this is the key to helping patients live longer.
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