Former President Jimmy Carter said Wednesday that his recent liver surgery has uncovered cancer in other parts of his body.
Carter had a small mass removed from his liver last week. The Carter Center said the procedure was elective and that he was expected to make a full recovery. He had previously cut short a trip to Guyana, where he was monitoring elections in May, because he felt ill.
“Recent liver surgery revealed that I have cancer that now is in other parts of my body. I will be re-arranging my schedule as necessary so I can undergo treatment by physicians at Emory Healthcare. A more complete public statement will be made when facts are known, possibly next week,” the 90-year-old Democrat said.
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama wished Carter “a fast and full recovery,” on Wednesday. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Rosalynn [Carter] and the entire Carter family as they face this challenge with the same grace and determination that they have shown so many times before. Jimmy, you’re as resilient as they come, and along with the rest of America, we are rooting for you,” Obama said in an official statement. The president’s deputy press secretary later confirmed to NBC that Obama also spoke to Carter on the phone Wednesday and wished him well.
There is a long history of pancreatic cancer in Carter’s family. His mother, father, two sisters and brother have all succumbed to the disease. In 2007, Carter told The New York Times that he used to be routinely scanned to detect tumors in his pancreas, however he has yet to confirm which form of cancer he currently has.
“I don’t get any more M.R.I.’s or CT scans regularly,” he told The Times. “I do have extensive blood work. I get a thorough physical exam once a year, and a fairly good physical exam twice a year. They do ultrasound on my body, too. But I don’t get too involved in cross-examining the doctor. They’re so thorough at Emory University.”
The ex-president had been on a tour to promote his new autobiography, “A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety.” Carter, who served as U.S. president from 1977 to 1981, has also remained very active on behalf of the nonprofit Carter Center and Habitat for Humanity.
During a March 2014 appearance on “Meet the Press,” Carter told msnbc’s Andrea Mitchell there’s “no magic involved” in his energetic lifestyle. “My wife and I have been lucky enough to be leaders of the Carter Center promoting peace, enhancing democracy. It’s adventurous. And I have to say it’s gratifying and exciting for us to be able to do that,” he said.
In an interview with his former speechwriter and msnbc host Chris Matthews last month, Carter said he and his 87-year-old wife were “just lucky” when it came to their health status.
Dr. Robert Mayer, a gastrointestinal cancer specialist at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, told NBC News that at his age, Carter is unlikely to tolerate much treatment. Mayer also said there are many possible forms of cancer that Carter could have.
“I really don’t know from paucity of information which of these would be the situation for President Carter. I don’t know what his symptoms were. I don’t know what led to surgery on his liver,” Mayer told NBC News. “This is a 90-year-old gentlemen with apparent widespread disease. The goals of treatment would be his comfort. If chemo is considered it would need to take into account his age.”
“I have every expectation that he’ll win this one,” Gerald Rafshoon, a former White House communications director for Carter, told msnbc on Wednesday.
Additional reporting by Maggie Fox.