Doctor: McCain's brain cancer is a 'rare', 'tough diagnosis'

- Senator John McCain says on social media he's appreciative of the outpouring of support after news of his cancer diagnosis made waves.

"Unfortunately for my sparring partners in Congress, I'll be back soon, so stand-by!" he promised in his tweet.

The 2008 Republican presidential nominee and Vietnam prisoner of war who has spent more than three decades in Congress was diagnosed with an aggressive type of brain cancer. The 80-year-old Arizona lawmaker has glioblastoma, according to doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, where McCain had a blood clot removed above his left eye last Friday. He and his family are considering further treatment, including chemotherapy and radiation.

"Subsequent tissue pathology revealed that a primary brain tumor known as a glioblastoma was associated with the blood clot," his office said in a statement late Wednesday.

According to the American Brain Tumor Association, more than 12,000 people a year are diagnosed with glioblastoma, the same type of tumor that struck McCain's close Democratic colleague in legislative battles, the late Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts. The American Cancer Society puts the five-year survival rate for patients over 55 at about 4 percent.

Dr. Steven Kalkanis, the chair of neurosurgery at Henry Ford Hospital, joined us in studio to tell us more about McCain's diagnosis and glioblastoma, which he says is a rare brain tumor.

"It's present in our population, but, it's a tough diagnosis for sure," he says.

Glioblastoma isn't genetic and it's not something that one can be exposed to, so, as of now, there's no known cause for the cancer. McCain has reportedly had melanoma cancer removed, but that form of cancer has no direct link to this brain tumor.

"This tumor is known for having these finger-like projections, these invasive areas that sort of plow through the normal brain, so it's very hard to isolate and to take out in total surgically," says Dr. Kalkanis. "But, I have to say, there's never been a more hopeful time for this tumor. The life expectancy over the last few years has doubled and we have patients who have been living for years and years, but that's not the norm. We really need to push the envelope further in terms of clinical trials and research."

Some people do show symptoms of glioblastoma, but Kalkanis says they depend on which part of the brain the tumor is located. You can hear more from Dr. Kalkanis in the video player above.

The senator and chairman of the Armed Services Committee had been recovering at his Arizona home. His absence forced Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to delay action on health care legislation.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said he spoke to McCain Wednesday evening and that McCain said: "Yeah, I'm going to have to stay here a little bit longer, take some treatments. I'll be back."

In a statement on Twitter, his daughter, Meghan McCain, spoke of the shock of the news and the anxiety over what happens next. "My love for my father is boundless and like any daughter I cannot and do not wish to be in a world without him. I have faith that those days remain far away," she said.

As word spread of his diagnosis, presidents past and present along with McCain's current and former Senate colleagues offered support in an outpouring rarely seen in Washington.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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