WASHINGTON, Feb. 11 (UPI) -- Sen. John F. Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, will undergo surgery Wednesday for early-stage prostate cancer that he insists won't impede his campaign for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination.
Kerry, 59, held a late afternoon press conference Tuesday to announce his illness. The operation will take place at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and be performed by Dr. Patrick Walsh, chief of urology. The doctor plans to remove Kerry's prostate gland during a two-hour procedure. Kerry will be sedated via spinal anesthesia.
Kerry said he felt lucky that his cancer was detected at an early enough stage to be treated by surgery. His doctors predict he has a 95 percent chance of being cancer-free in a decade, a prognosis based on his early detection, he said.
"The reason I feel lucky is I'm going to be cured," he said.
He said he plans to be back home in Washington by Saturday and fully recovered within two weeks. The surgery will not slow down his campaign efforts, he said.
Kerry, a leading Democratic presidential contender, had $3.1 million in his war chest as of Dec. 31, far outpacing his closest competition, former Minority Leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri, who reported $2.4 million to the Federal Election Commission.
Other likely contenders include Sen. Joseph Lieberman and Sen. Chris Dodd -- both of Connecticut. Also on the list are Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, Sen. Bob Graham of Florida, Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and Al Sharpton.
Graham has also been having health problems: He was released from the hospital last week after open-heart surgery Jan. 31. A spokesman for Graham said Tuesday that his recovery was on target.
Kerry's father, Richard Kerry, died in 2000 of prostate cancer at age 85. That family history prompted Kerry to be vigilant about monitoring his personal health, he said.
As recently as last week, Kerry denied he was ill. He said he kept his cancer private until his family was notified and his doctors were available to explain his condition.
"Members of my family had not been told. It developed rapidly in February. I'm here today voluntarily, as I always knew I would be once I knew what my course of treatment would be," he said.
Kerry's constituents, when contacted by United Press International, had a mixed reaction to his announcement.
Sheila Concanon of Newton, Mass., said in a telephone interview that the illness "definitely will affect his campaign. When Lieberman ran before being sick affected his campaign."
But despite that, "I'll still vote for him," she said.
Jeff Mehigan of Framingham, Mass., said the cancer might help Kerry's campaign.
"People tend to look to leaders who have undergone some kind of conflict whether it be health or not. It might help him with the elder vote because of health concerns, (such as) healthcare and Medicare," he said.
Washington resident Judy Park, a former Bostonian, said Kerry's campaign team would more than make up for Kerry's few days off.
"Prostate cancer is such a common thing, but if they say he'll make a full recovery, by the primaries he'll be fine. I don't think it's a big deal. I don't think it will hurt him at all," he said.
In May 2000, then-New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a Republican, decided against a campaign for the Senate -- and an expected race against Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton -- after being diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Kerry said he consulted with Giuliani and others before making his final decision to have surgery.
Kerry said he receives annual blood tests aimed at detecting prostate cancer. A test this fall showed a spike compared with a similar test a year ago. While Kerry's test result was still below the standard when doctors are usually concerned a patient might have developed prostate cancer, the spike and Kerry's history prompted the senator to undergo a biopsy at Massachusetts General Hospital in December.
That test determined that Kerry had localized early-stage prostate cancer. On Jan. 2, Kerry underwent a precautionary bone and CAT scan that showed no other cancer or disease, according to a statement released by Dr. Gerald J. Doyle of Boston, the senator's primary physician.
In 1991, Bob Dole, then a U.S. senator from Kansas, was diagnosed with prostate cancer. It, too, was treated with surgery. Five years later, Dole was cancer-free and the Republican presidential nominee.
Dole has been a leading spokesman for men over the age of 40 to be tested for cancer. In testimony in 1999 before Congress, Dole said: "Since the time of my diagnosis, I have tried to speak out as much as possible about the value and importance of early detection. I truly believed then, and continue to believe today, that early detection saved my life."
Kerry gained his seat in the Senate when the incumbent, the late Paul E. Tsongas, decided to step down in 1984 after being diagnosed with lymphoma.
Tsongas underwent treatment and was considered cancer-free when he ran for president in 1992, yet he died in January 1997 of complications from his cancer treatment.
Kerry, 59, is physically active and has been generally physically fit throughout his life. He said he weighs 178 pounds, down a few pounds from his normal weight of 180 to 185.
He attributed the weight loss to hard work on his campaign.
The senator's mother, Rosemary Forbes Kerry, died in November at age 89 of respiratory complications.