Sudden surgery for Senator Mazie Hirono
Recently diagnosed with renal cell cancer, Senator Mazie Hirono will have one kidney removed Wednesday.
HONOLULU - Recently diagnosed with "Renal Cell Cancer", Senator Mazie Hirono will have her kidney removed Wednesday. The major surgery comes after the Senator went in for a minor surgery last month, not for her kidneys but for her eyes.
Senator Hirono talked about health care during town hall meetings on Oahu earlier this month. But her own health became much more complicated in April when a physical before eye surgery revealed an abnormality on her chest x-ray. The abnormality turned out to be kidney cancer which had spread to her rib.
"Kidney cancers are aggressive cancers, once they spread they can spread pretty quickly," said Dr. Clayton Chong, Chief of Queens Medical Center Oncology Department.
He said Hirono was fortunate the cancer was found when it was, because many times patients don't have any symptoms. He notes the key to treatment now is targeting the initial tumor.
"Kidney cancer is one of the rare cancers that removal or treating the primary tumor makes a huge difference in the success of future treatments," stated Dr. Chong.
Hirono will have her kidney taken out at the Medstar Georgetown University Hospital. Before the surgery, she released this statement:
"I face this fight with the same determination I've fought for the people of Hawaii. And I never quit, especially when things get tough."
After doctors remove Hirono's kidney she will undergo an outpatient procedure called the Cyberknife, which focuses beams of radiation to target the tumor in her rib, effectively cut it out without damaging surrounding healthy tissue.
Chemotherapy isn't as effective against kidney cancer, but there have been numerous advancements in immunotherapy and biotherapy treatments leaving her doctor is optimistic.
"Patients can do well long-term. And we are fortunate that there are multiple, new systemic treatments that have been developed over the past decade for patients with advance kidney cancer that are greatly improving the outlook for those patients," said Dr. Michael B. Atkins, the deputy director of Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Dr. Chong added if the cancer is completely destroyed, the Senator should not be slowed by the loss of one kidney, "She should function at 100%. You need 1 kidney, maybe half a kidney. You don't need 2 kidneys. Removal of her kidney shouldn't impact her function or lifestyle at all."
In her statement, Hirono said she is already focused on her recovery -- and wants to work during that time. She plans to return to the Senate as soon as possible.
Hirono was elected to the Senate in 2012, which means next year is an election year for her.