Lantos weighs radiation, chemotherapy treatment

Rep. Tom Lantos is considering a combination of chemotherapy and radiation to treat esophageal cancer at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland, his spokeswoman said Wednesday.

Lynne Weil added that the congressman is still consulting with his doctors.

Dr. Alan Venook, an expert in gastrointestinal cancer and associate chief in the division of medical oncology at UCSF, made it clear he didn’t know the details of Lantos’ diagnosis, but said the treatment the congressman is considering is usually reserved for fairly advanced cancers.

Patients who are otherwise fit and whose esophageal cancers are caught early usually undergo surgery, Venook said.

Radiation and chemotherapy is time consuming and energy depleting, Venook said. While Lantos will likely be able to serve out his term as he plans, Venook said the treatment would prevent him from meeting the demands of a campaign schedule.

“For six or eight weeks, he’s not going to be able to get out and do things,” he said. “Radiation is every day for six weeks, chemotherapy is every week or every two weeks.”

The chance the treatment will cure the cancer is less than 50 percent, according to Venook.

Weil said that “while it’s clear he has a serious illness,” Lantos feels well enough to be working from his rented apartment in Washington, D.C. His primary home is in Burlingame.

“He’s taking care of himself and also taking business through his chief of staff. He’s looking ahead to what the Foreign Affairs Committee can achieve this next year and what he wants to achieve for his constituents,” she said.

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