WASHINGTON — Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd said Friday that he has been diagnosed with an early stage of prostate cancer and will have surgery in early August, but the prognosis is good and the illness will not affect his plans to seek a sixth term next year.
Dodd said evidence of possible cancer was detected in June during his annual physical and later confirmed by a biopsy. He said he plans to have surgery at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York shortly after Congress adjourns next week and is "very confident we're going to come out of this well."
Dodd, with wife Jackie Clegg Dodd by his side, said he feels fine and expects to return to a full schedule at the end of August.
"I'm running for re-election. I'll be a little leaner, a little meaner, but I'm running," Dodd told reporters, friends and supporters who gathered at his Hartford office.
He later quipped: "I'll be running without a prostate."
The 65-year-old Democrat is chairman of the Senate Banking Committee and is playing a lead role in Congress' attempt to overhaul the nation's health care system. He said he will continue to be actively involved in those negotiations.
Dodd took that role while his close friend, Senate health committee Chairman Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts fights his own battle with brain cancer.
Dodd said he has kept his diagnosis quiet for weeks, consulting only with doctors and a few fellow senators who have had prostate cancer. He decided not to tell Kennedy until Thursday because of his own health problems.
Dodd said he also didn't inform some family members right away because his sister, Martha Dodd Buonanno, was suffering from lung cancer. She died July 6.
Dodd said he decided Thursday night to choose surgery over other treatment options.
Cancer has not spread
Prostate cancer is the most common form of the disease in men in the United States, affecting about 6.4 out of every 100 men in Dodd's age group, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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Dr. William K. Kelly, who heads the prostate and urologic cancers program at the Yale Cancer Center, said the prostate-removal surgery that Dodd is seeking shows the cancer is localized and has not spread.
"He should do very well," Kelly said. "He should have a good recovery and should be very functional after several weeks."
Kelly said the biggest risk factor of prostate cancer is age. By the age of 75 or 80, he said 75 percent of males will have prostate cancer but the majority are not serious.
Dodd used the diagnosis to make a pitch for overhauling the U.S. health care system.
"For a person who loses health care coverage, that physical may not be something that you can afford," he said. "I'm fortunate as a member of Congress to have those benefits."
In Washington, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said he didn't know if President Barack Obama had called Dodd upon learning about the cancer, but said he was likely to call later Friday.
Dodd is facing what's expected to be a tough re-election campaign. A poll last week showed him trailing former Republican U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, 48 percent to 39 percent, and 52 percent of respondents disapproved of Dodd's job performance.
Simmons said he and his wife Heidi extended their best wishes to Dodd.
"We join the rest of Connecticut in keeping Chris and his family in our thoughts and prayers, and know he will return with vigor to the campaign trail when circumstances allow," Simmons said.
Another potential challenger, Republican state Sen. Sam Caligiuri, also sent his best wishes.
The Senate ethics committee is looking into whether Dodd violated standards of conduct when he allegedly received mortgage discounts from the VIP program at Countrywide Financial Corp.
Dodd, whose committee oversees the banking and financial industries, has acknowledged participating in a Countrywide VIP program, which he said he thought referred to upgraded customer service. He denied asking for or receiving any special treatment when he refinanced his homes in Washington and East Haddam, Conn., in 2003.
Dodd was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1974 and was re-elected in 1976 and 1978, and was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1980.
He ran unsuccessfully for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, dropping out after failing to gain support in the Iowa caucuses.
He and Clegg have two young daughters.
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