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Battling Hodgkin’s, Specter Faces Chemotherapy

Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) announced Wednesday that he has an advanced stage of Hodgkin’s disease and will undergo chemotherapy for the next six to eight months.

According to a statement released by his office Wednesday evening, Specter is expected to “be able to perform all duties of his office including those related to the chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee” while recovering from the disease.

The statement said there is a 70 percent survival rate over five years for patients with this level of Hodgkin’s.

Specter will miss today’s committee markup of the bankruptcy bill. It remained unclear when Specter, who was still recovering in Philadelphia, would be back on Capitol Hill. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), whom Specter replaced as chairman after a November fight over his views on abortion, will chair today’s markup.

In the statement, Specter referenced the litany of health battles he has waged over the past dozen years, as well as the handful of times he’s trumped the odds in campaigns and internal Senate fights.

“I have beaten a brain tumor, bypass heart surgery and many tough political opponents; and I’m going to beat this too. I have a lot more work to do for Pennsylvania and America,” he said.

Just elected to a record sixth term by Pennsylvania’s voters, Specter celebrated his 75th birthday Saturday. If his health deteriorated and he was unable to complete his term, Gov. Ed Rendell (D), one of the Senator’s closest friends, would appoint his successor. Pennsylvania election law would require a special election the next time state or local elections were held.

Specter has not been on the Hill this week. The statement said he had experienced persistent fevers and enlarged lymph nodes under his left arm and above his left clavicle. He received testing Monday at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia.

The testing involved biopsy of a lymph node and biopsy of bone marrow. The lymph node was positive for Hodgkin’s disease. The bone marrow biopsy showed no cancer.

A follow-up PET scan and MRI at the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania on Wednesday established that Specter has stage IVB Hodgkin’s disease.

His office released a statement from his oncologist at Penn, John H. Glick.

“Senator Specter has an excellent chance of being completely cured of his Hodgkin’s disease,” Glick said. “Senator Specter’s Hodgkin’s disease has a five-year survival rate of 70 percent. He is in superb physical condition, particularly in light of his daily squash regimen.”

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