Las Vegas Sun

April 17, 2014

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Governor diagnosed with early stage prostate cancer

Gov. Kenny Guinn announced this morning that he has been diagnosed with prostate cancer but said it would not affect his job or re-election campaign.

Guinn and his doctors said the cancer was caught early and was in the beginning stage.

"Due to the fact that I am the chief executive officer of the state, I wanted everyone to know," Guinn said. "It is absolutely not a problem for me. I don't have any symptoms."

Guinn's cancer was detected by his family doctor during a routine physical. Guinn then consulted urologist Dr. Ranjit Jain, who conducted 10 biopsies. The first nine biopsies found no sign of cancer. However, in the 10th biopsy five percent of the cells were determined to be cancerous, the doctor said.

"This is probably the very earliest stage we could ever find it," said Jain, who practices in Las Vegas.

The cancer was diagnosed June 21 and Guinn then sought a second opinion and underwent additional tests to determine if the cancer existed elsewhere. Doctors said Guinn has no signs of any other cancers, and that his cancer is localized to his prostate.

"Under the circumstances I think I'm blessed, and I hope it sends a good example for people to get checkups," Guinn said.

Guinn's family doctor, Sarah Smith, said Guinn, 65, is very healthy for his age. Guinn said his only previous serious health problem was appendicitis when he was in the eighth grade.

"I was more at risk with that appendectomy than I am today with modern science," Guinn said.

Guinn is now consulting with his wife, Dema, to determine which treatment options he will pursue. He could undergo surgery to remove the prostate, or he could submit to either of two types of radiation treatment.

The specialist, Jain, said Guinn would miss about three to five days of work if he opted for the surgery. When the doctor mentioned that possibility, Guinn said "two days," hinting that he expected his recovery from any treatment would be faster than average.

Guinn also said he does not expect to transfer power to Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt.

"No one's ever going to make me slow down," Guinn said.

Guinn said he will still call a special session of the state Legislature later this month. He will call lawmakers into session to discuss the medical malpractice crisis.

Guinn is running unopposed in the Republican primary. The leading Democratic candidate is state Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas.

Neal said he was saddened by the news of Gov. Guinn's health problems.

"I'm sad to hear that the governor has prostate cancer," Neal said. "I hope he has caught it in time. You never want to wish somebody bad in a situation like that. I hope he survives it."

Neal said, however, that that news would not affect his campaign against Guinn.

"We will still talk about the issues," Neal said. "I will not speak ill of his health. But this will not alter my campaign strategy because we're talking about issues that affect the state."

State Sen. Terry Care, D-Las Vegas, the chairman of the Nevada Democratic Party, said it was to early to say what effect Guinn's announcement would have on this year's governor's race.

"Certainly we all wish him well," Care said. "It's not something you want to see anyone go through."

Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers affecting men. More than 200,000 diagnoses are made each year nationwide and 40,000 men die each year from the disease.

Jain said someone with early detection has a 90 percent chance of being cured.

In October 1996, then-Gov. Bob Miller, with his wife, Sandy, at his side, held a news conference to announce that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Miller's physician, the late Elias Ghanem, had discovered the cancer during a routine examination.

A month later the then 51-year-old governor had successful surgery at Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles to remove his prostate gland and has been cancer free since then.

In 1998, then Las Vegas Mayor Jan L. Jones went through treatment for breast cancer, including chemotherapy, radiation and a lumpectomy. She was declared in remission and went on to run for governor that fall, losing to Guinn.

Sun reporters Steve Kanigher and Jeff German contributed to this story.

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