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Doctors Remove 2 Polyps From Reagan’s Colon

Times Staff Writer

Physicians removed two “very small” polyps from President Reagan’s colon Friday during a routine checkup after his cancer surgery a year ago, the White House said in a statement that otherwise declared the President in good health.

The polyps were only 1 to 1.5 millimeters in size and will undergo standard laboratory evaluation to determine whether they contain cancer cells. The results of those lab tests are expected to be made public today.

Polyps as small as the ones found in Reagan’s colon are usually benign and no cause for alarm.

Previous Polyps ‘Benign’

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In January doctors removed three polyps, also described as very small, from Reagan’s colon. A statement released by the White House after that procedure said the tissue that was removed appeared “clinically benign,” an assumption that was proved correct the next day by laboratory tests.

White House physician T. Burton Smith did not evaluate the two polyps that were removed Friday.

But Smith gave Reagan an overall clean bill of health, declaring: “The results of all the other tests were normal, and the President is in good health.” Reagan’s next examination will be in six months, Smith said.

Reagan, who is 75 years old, spent more than five hours at the Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. He went through an exhaustive battery of examinations that included blood tests, X-rays, CAT scans and a colonoscopy.

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A colonoscopy is an examination in which a physician uses a long, flexible tube to visually inspect the full length of the large intestine. It was through the use of such an exam that physicians at the Navy hospital first discovered the President’s tumor last year.

He also had a dermatological examination of his nose to search for any additional evidence of skin cancer. Reagan had minor surgery on his nose in October, 1985, to remove a small patch of cancerous cells.

When Reagan emerged from the hospital late Friday afternoon, accompanied by his wife, Nancy, reporters shouted: “What did they find?” Mrs. Reagan responded, “Fine.” The President grinned and waved and said “A-OK.”

Flew to Camp David

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The Reagans flew by helicopter from the suburban hospital to Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountains. They were accompanied by their dog Rex, a brown and white King Charles spaniel.

Next Tuesday, Reagan will head west for a five-day vacation at his ranch in the Santa Ynez Mountains near Santa Barbara. On the way, he will stop in Las Vegas to attend a fund-raising dinner for the Republican candidate for the Senate, former Rep. James Santini (R-Nev.).

Friday’s hospital exam was Reagan’s fourth since his operation to remove a cancerous tumor from his intestine on July 13, 1985.

The President is regarded as having a better than 50% chance of avoiding a recurrence of colon cancer, but regular examinations are considered essential to assure early detection in the event it does return.

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Since some polyps can become malignant as they grow larger, it is standard procedure to remove even the smallest polyps in a cancer patient like Reagan. The two polyps removed from Reagan’s colon Friday were no bigger than the head of a needle.

Not Unexpected

The occurrence of new polyps is not unexpected in a man of Reagan’s age who has had previous polyps, said Dr. Brian Henderson, director of the Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center at the USC School of Medicine.


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