Former President Jimmy Carter faces a difficult battle against cancer that has spread to his brain, a top doctor tells Newsmax Health.
It is likely he has only months, perhaps just weeks, to live, the expert says, and treatment will focus on making him comfortable and giving him some extra time.
“The prognosis for metastatic melanoma that has spread to the brain is very poor,” says Charles Park, M.D., director of the Minimally Invasive Brain and Spine Center at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. “Even with treatment, survival is measured in months or weeks.”
In a press conference Thursday, Carter revealed that he has been diagnosed with melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer, that has spread to four small spots in his brain.
The 90-year-old had undergone surgery earlier this month to remove a cancerous mass from his liver.
Carter said he plans to begin radiation treatment immediately and will also have the immunotherapy drug Keyruda (pembrolizumab).
Carter disclosed that his melanoma had most likely started somewhere on his skin before spreading to his liver, and then to his brain, a pattern that is common, said Dr. Park.
Doctors have not found cancer in his pancreas, Carter said, which was a concern since his three siblings and father all died of pancreatic cancer.
First-line treatments for advanced melanoma are surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, Dr. Park said. Surgery is unlikely in Carter’s case because of his age, he said.
Carter will likely undergo stereotactic radiation directed at the four brain tumors, Dr. Park said. The treatment will allow doctors to hit the cancer while largely sparing surrounding brain tissue.
A life-threatening danger that patients such as Carter face is the possibility that the tumors could hemorrhage, resulting in a deadly brain bleed, said Dr. Park.
In any case, Carter’s treatment is most likely to be palliative, meaning it is aimed at making him more comfortable or to extend his life slightly, rather than in hopes of a cure, said Dr. Park.
“The prognosis for melanoma that has spread to the brain is very poor, no matter what you do,” he added.
Carter said that he had experienced little pain so far.
“Within the bounds of my own judgment, I’ll do what the doctors recommend to extend my life,” he said. “They have means, they say, and I trust them completely to alleviate the aftereffects or side effects of the treatment.”
In the meantime, he said he would “hope for the best, accept what comes. I think I have been as blessed as any human being on the planet.”
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