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Jimmy Carter says he has cancer, revealed by recent surgery

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Jimmy Carter says he has cancer, revealed by recent surgery



ATLANTA (AP) — Former President Jimmy Carter revealed that recent liver surgery found cancer has spread in his body but gave few details about his prognosis in a brief statement released Wednesday.

The statement makes clear that Carter's cancer is widely spread, but not where it originated, or even if that is known at this point. The liver is often a place where cancer spreads and less commonly is the primary source of it. It said further information will be provided when more facts are known, "possibly next week.""Recent liver surgery revealed that I have cancer that now is in other parts of my body," Carter said in the statement released by the Carter Center. "I will be rearranging my schedule as necessary so I can undergo treatment by physicians at Emory Healthcare."

Carter, 90, announced on Aug. 3 that he had surgery to remove a small mass from his liver.

Good wishes poured in on social media after Carter's announcement, while President Barack Obama said he and first lady Michelle Obama wish Carter a fast and full recovery.

"Jimmy, you're as resilient as they come, and along with the rest of America, we are rooting for you," Obama said in a statement.

Carter was the nation's 39th president, defeating Gerald Ford in 1976 with a pledge to always be honest. A number of foreign policy conflicts doomed his bid for a second term, and Carter lost to Ronald Reagan in a landslide.

After leaving the White House, he founded the center in Atlanta in 1982 to promote health care, democracy and other issues globally, often with wife Rosalynn by his side, and won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.

In this Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014 photo, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter speaks during a forum in B …

He has remained active in recent years, making public appearances at the center's headquarters in Atlanta and traveling overseas, including a May election observation visit to Guyana cut short when Carter developed a bad cold.

Carter also completed a book tour this summer to promote his latest work, "A Full Life."

Carter included his family's history of pancreatic cancer in that memoir, writing that his father, brother and two sisters all died of the disease and said the trend "concerned" the former president's doctors at Emory.

"The National Institutes of Health began to check all members of our family regularly, and my last remaining sibling, Gloria, sixty-four, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died in 1990," Carter wrote. "There was no record of another American family having lost four members to this disease, and since that time I have had regular X-rays, CAT scans, or blood analyses, with hope of early detection if I develop the same symptoms."

Carter wrote that being the only nonsmoker in his family "may have been what led to my longer life."

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to President Carter," said Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society.

"There's a lot we don't know," but the first task likely will be determining where the cancer originated, as that can help determine what treatment he may be eligible for, Lichtenfeld said. Sometimes the primary site can't be determined, so genetic analysis of the tumor might be done to see what mutations are driving it and what drugs might target those mutations.

"Given the president's age, any treatments, their potential and their impacts, will undoubtedly be discussed carefully with him and his family," he added.

Age by itself does not preclude successful cancer treatment, said Dr. Lodovico Balducci, a specialist on treating cancer in the elderly at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa. Much depends on the patient's "biological" age versus his actual years, he said.

"A man 90 years old normally would have a life expectancy of two or three years, but Jimmy Carter is probably much younger than that" in terms of his function, Balducci said. "If he tolerated liver surgery I imagine he has a relatively good tolerance" to other treatments that might be tried. For example, Moffitt has developed a scoring system to estimate how well an older person would tolerate chemotherapy, and the risk of serious side effects.

The first task is to determine if the cancer is curable, "which is unlikely with metastatic cancer," or if it is possible to meaningfully prolong the life through further surgery or other treatments, Balducci said. "Cancer in a 90-year-old is a serious problem, but that does not mean a 90-year-old cannot benefit from treatment."

Carter Center spokeswoman Deanna Congileo earlier this month called the liver surgery "elective" and said Carter's "prognosis is excellent for a full recovery."

An Emory spokesman declined comment Wednesday. The health care system's Winship Cancer Institute in Atlanta touts its designation as a National Cancer Institute center and a recent U.S. News and World Report ranking among the top 25 cancer programs in the U.S. on its website.


AP Chief Medical Writer Marilynn Marchione in Mil



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Published Dec 6, 2021
How is the Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, 97, Doing Today? Despite Cancer & a Broken Hip, He’s Doing Well
How is Jimmy Carter? He’s Doing Well
  • Despite health concerns, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter celebrated his 97th birthday this year, making him the oldest former president.
  • In 2015, Carter was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer that had spread throughout his body. In December of that year, he was cancer-free. He remains free of disease to this day.
  • Melanoma treatment has come a long way over the years. With breakthrough treatments like targeted therapy and immunotherapy, people who are diagnosed today have a much better chance of living a long and healthy life than ever before.

On Oct. 1, former United States President Jimmy Carter celebrated his 97th birthday, making him the oldest former president alive today.

In July, the former president celebrated another milestone: 75 years married to the love of his life and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter. “I want to express particular gratitude for being the right woman that I chose for my wife,” Jimmy Carter said during the couple’s 75th wedding anniversary celebration.

While these remarkable achievements are feat for anyone, it’s especially amazing considering Carter is a cancer survivor. Despite a cancer battle and other health issues, such as falling and breaking his left hip in 2019, Jimmy Carter is still alive and well today, continuing to hold the title of the oldest living former president of the U.S.

Related: How is Former President Jimmy Carter — a Melanoma Survivor — Coping During COVID-19?

Jimmy Carter’s Cancer Battle

In 2015, just a few years before breaking his hip, Jimmy Carter was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer that had spread throughout his body.

Melanoma treatment has come a long way over the years. Survival rates have risen dramatically, thanks to a “treatment revolution,” SurvivorNet experts say. With breakthrough treatments like targeted therapy and immunotherapy now available, people who are diagnosed today have a much better chance of living a long and healthy life than ever before. If you’re diagnosed with melanoma, there’s a good chance surgery is going to be the treatment your doctor recommends. In the early stages of the disease, removing the cancer should lead to a cure.

Melanoma Treatment Has ‘Come a Long Way’

However, once your cancer spreads, treatment gets a little more complicated. But there are still ways to stop it. New treatments have vastly improved the outlook for people with metastatic melanoma, like Carter.

For treatment, Jimmy Carter went through immunotherapy, which harnesses the power of one’s own immune system to fight off cancer cells. He also went through surgery and radiation. (Carter’s treatment plan of surgery, radiation and immunotherapy is often considered the most effective route for metastatic melanoma patients.)

This thorough treatment plan was necessary, especially since Carter’s melanoma had spread to his brain. But as it turns out, the treatments were all worth it. Once going public about his cancer battle a few months later, he shared in December 2015 that an MRI scan found no evidence of disease; he was considered cancer-free.

Treating Late-Stage Melanoma

As previously stated, once the cancer has spread to other areas of the body, like Carter’s cancer did, treatment can be tricky.

Targeted drugs (one treatment option) block proteins and other substances the cancer needs to grow, while immunotherapy (another treatment option) boosts your body’s own response to help it fight the cancer better. With so many more choices available, treatment can be tailored specifically to you and your needs. These therapies are more likely than chemotherapy to control your cancer, but like any treatment, they can cause side effects.

Immunotherapy drugs like pembrolizumab (brand name: Keytruda) and nivolumab (brand name: Opdivo) can help some people with this type of cancer live longer — maybe even as long as Jimmy Carter! Whether these drugs are right for you depends on a number of factors, including where the melanoma is and how fast it’s spreading. Combining immunotherapy drugs might also extend survival. But again, these treatments have risks that are important to discuss with your doctor.

Immunotherapy for Melanoma Can Work, But Side Effects Are a Risk

There’s also a vaccine that has the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved for people whose melanoma has spread and can’t be removed with surgery. Talimogene laherparepvec (T-VEC) is a modified herpes virus that kills cancer cells when doctors inject it directly into the cancer.

Researchers, including some SurvivorNet experts, are studying other groundbreaking melanoma treatments in clinical trials. Enrolling in one of these studies might give you access to a new treatment before it’s available to everyone else. (Many SurvivorNet experts say that once they’ve exhausted all other options for treating their patients’ cancer, or if they have a rare cancer, they’ll recommend looking into clinical trials. How can you find active clinical trials that may be right for you? Check out clinicaltrials.gov.)

Once you’ve finished treatment for melanoma, it can come with a huge sense of relief — just like with any cancer treatment. Celebrate your successes, but stay vigilant. It’s possible for this cancer to come back in the future. For Jimmy Carter, he’s been cancer-free for six years now. Whether your cancer is likely to return may depend on your stage, so screening recommendations vary.

If you had early-stage melanoma, you should have a skin exam once every three to six months. If you had late-stage melanoma — like Carter — in addition to regular skin exams every three to six months, you may also need imaging scans or blood tests to monitor for signs of recurrence. You should also report any symptoms such as a headache, changes in vision, cough, fatigue or weight loss to your doctor.

Contributing: SurvivorNet staff
Learn more about SurvivorNet's rigorous medical review process.



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Jimmy Carter: The deadly diagnosis that led him to believe he had 'just a few weeks left'

FORMER president of the United States Jimmy Carter was ready to die when he announced he had malignant cancer that had spread to his brain and liver. Yet, a few months later something remarkable happened.

Speaking at the Carter Center several years ago, at the time of his cancer diagnosis, Carter said he was at “ease” despite believing he “had just a few weeks left”. Prior to the announcement, the politician had been for a full body checkup at a medical center in Atlanta, Georgia, where the shocking diagnosis was given to him.
“I came back to Emory and they checked me over and in the process, they did a complete physical examination and the MRI showed there was a tumour on my liver,” said Carter back in August 2015.

“They did a biopsy and found out it was indeed cancer and it was melanoma and they had a very high suspicion then and now that the melanoma started somewhere else on my body and spread to the liver.”

Melanomas are cancers that begin in the melanocytes, which are responsible for producing melanin. Cancer that spreads to the liver from melanoma is known as liver metastasis.


After learning of his liver cancer, Carter was sent for surgery. Although Carter was “quite relieved” about how the surgery went, another MRI scan revealed his ordeal wasn’t over.

He added: “That same afternoon we had an MRI of my head and neck and it showed up already in four places in my brain.”

READ MORE: 'Strong evidence': The type of vegetable associated with a higher risk of stomach cancer

Carter’s odds of survival were very low.

According to Cancer Research UK, roughly only 15 percent of people will survive a primary liver cancer – meaning it originated in the liver - diagnosis for five years or more.

However, secondary liver cancer is considered even more dangerous as it means cancer started elsewhere in the body.

Confronted with this, with the addition of the melanoma in his brain, Carter was ready for his life to end.

He said: “This is the hands of God my worshipper and I'll be prepared for anything that comes.”

Over the course of several months between August 2015 and February 2016, Carter underwent surgery, radiation therapy, and a new kind of immunotherapy treatment.

In March 2016, ABC News received the following email from a spokesperson at the Carter Center: "President Carter said today he did not need any more treatments, which he had August 2015 through February 2016, but will continue scans and resume treatment if necessary.”

Remarkably he is still alive today – which experts claim is mostly down to the effects of the immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab.

In the US, the drug was first introduced back in 2010. Talking to ABCNews, Doctor Lichtenfiel, deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society said: “Five years ago we would not have much to offer the president.”

READ MORE: Cancer signs: The smell in your stool that may signal a tumour has become 'unresectable'

Jimmy Carter's cancer had spread to his liver and brain by August 2015 (Image: Getty Images)

The drug pembrolizumab works by powering up the body’s immune system, used to treat melanoma, non-small cell lung cancer, Hodgkin lymphoma, and bladder cancer.

In the UK, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence – the main provider of standards and clinical advice for the NHS, had been recommending the use of pembrolizumab for many years.

Over the last decade, it has slowly become more available for those suffering from cancer, including melanoma – the fifth most common cancer in the country.

In December 2021, it became routinely available on the NHS for stage 3 melanoma that has spread to the lymph nodes.



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Former President Jimmy Carter had a "good day" on Sunday and may have some time left, according to his niece Leanne Smith.

Smith said Carter is still talking and eating and that he requested she bring him soup for dinner.

"He had a good day," Smith told FOX News Digital. "In fact, about 30 minutes ago, I got a text. They knew I made broccoli and cheese soup, so before I came to meet with you, I dropped broccoli and cheese soup off to be delivered to the house, because he's eating and talking … so it is amazing. He's still got some time in him. I just feel like it."

*Unii au mai multa viata ca altii in Palmarès, nu prea suna egalitate precum se pretinde ca sintem cu toti egali!!!   


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