Article Last Updated: 1/25/2006 01:59 AM
Hinckley's cancer removed
Church predicts speedy recovery
By Peggy Fletcher Stack
The Salt Lake Tribune
LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley was in a Salt Lake City
hospital Tuesday recovering from laparoscopic surgery to remove a
cancerous growth from his colon, or large intestine.
"The diseased portion of the intestine was successfully removed,"
said LDS spokesman Dale Bills in an official statement. "It is
anticipated that President Hinckley will recover rapidly and resume
his normal duties."
Hinckley is considered a "prophet, seer and revelator" by members
of the 12-million-member Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
At 95 1/2 , he is the second-oldest man to hold the office, which is a
lifetime position. David O. McKay, the ninth president, was 96 1/2
when he died in 1970.
The church statement said the cancerous growth was discovered in a
routine screening but did not say whether any further cancer cells
were discovered in the procedure or whether any further treatment is
The "routine screening" was clearly a colonoscopy, said Bill
Nibley, an oncologist at Cottonwood and LDS hospitals. It is now quite
common to remove these growths in a laparoscopic surgery, a less
invasive procedure than full surgery. Laparoscopic surgery consists of
smaller incisions and the use of tiny cameras to help guide the
After the cancer cells are removed, the surgeon looks into the
abdomen to determine if there are any other masses in the abdomen. Any
suspicious growth would be evaluated by a pathologist.
But even if doctors did find the cancer had spread, it is
unlikely that Hinckley would undergo the chemotherapy as a younger
person might. "At his age, you would have a tough time showing some
kind of advantage in that treatment," Nibley said.
Joe Eyring, a Salt Lake City colorectal surgeon, said that might
not necessarily be the case.
"Chemotherapy for colon cancer has made real breakthroughs
lately. Many potential therapies are available depending on [the
cancer's] location and stage of development," Eyring said. "In
general, 95-year-old people don't usually choose chemotherapy but
there aren't many 95-year-old people in his position. This is a unique
As president, Hinckley has traveled to more countries than any
previous LDS leader, jetting across the globe, dedicating temples and
meeting with church members, government officials and the media.
"I am an old man," he constantly quips to reporters. "Treat me nicely."
Throughout Hinckley's more than 70 years of service to his
church, he has been remarkably healthy, spending very little time in
hospitals. When he was named the LDS Church's 15th president in 1995,
Hinckley told reporters he had spent only one night in the hospital -
not for himself but with a sick child.
In 2001, Hinckley had a pacemaker installed to regulate his heart
but the procedure was done on an outpatient basis. His health was
fine, he said at General Conference that spring, he was just "a little
unsteady on my feet" due to a case of "vertigo," or dizziness.
Since then, Hinckley has been slowed only by a cane and by the
death of his wife, Marjorie Pay Hinckley, in April 2004. On his 95th
birthday last June, he acknowledged that he has diabetes - right
before taking off for an around-the-world trip, stopping in some 11
He plans to continue that kind of rigorous travel.
Earlier Tuesday, the LDS Church announced the dedication of a new
temple in Santiago, Chile, on Feb. 26. A cultural celebration
featuring the talents of 4,000 Latter-day Saint Chilean youth is
scheduled for Feb. 25. Hinckley is expected to rededicate the temple
and attend the celebration, according to the news release.
If Hinckley falls ill, the church will continue to be governed by
his two counselors in the First Presidency, Thomas S. Monson and James
E. Faust, and the Quorum of Twelve Apostles. Monson, first counselor
in the First Presidency and the senior apostle, would be Hinckley's
successor. He is 78.
Hinckley surgery a success
* What happened: LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley, 95,
successfully underwent surgery for colon cancer, the church announced.
* The disease: Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in the
U.S. and one of the leading causes of death. In Utah, analysts
anticipate 670 residents will be diagnosed with the disease this year
and 260 will die from it.
* The procedure: The surgery was performed using a laparoscopic
technique. It is less invasive than traditional surgery and usually
leads to a speedier recovery.
* The prognosis: The church issued a statement saying it expected
Hinckley to make a full recovery.