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Politics

Sen. Thom Tillis Says He'll Have Surgery For Prostate Cancer

Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., celebrates with his wife Susan, at a election night rally Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in Mooresville, N.C.
Chris Carlson
/
AP
Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., celebrates with his wife Susan, at a election night rally Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in Mooresville, N.C.

Sen. Thomas Tillis said Monday that he has prostate cancer and will undergo surgery next week in North Carolina to treat it.

“I am in the hands of outstanding medical professionals and expect to make a full recovery,” the Republican said in a statement.

Tillis, 60, says he had no symptoms of cancer and discovered the illness early on through an annual physical. It’s unclear when exactly that was.

He said the cancer was detected relatively early.

“I can’t emphasize enough how important routine screenings are, regardless of how healthy you think you are,” he wrote. “I had no symptoms and would have never imagined I had cancer. My prognosis is good because I went to my annual physical and received a PSA test, which led to a biopsy and eventually my diagnosis. Early detection can truly save lives.”

Jeff Karnes, a Mayo Clinic professor in Rochester, Minnesota, and urologist who specializes in prostate cancer, is not treating Tillis but noted patients with similar diagnoses that are detected early typically spend a night in a hospital for what he considers a “fairly routine surgery." Patients he's treated have often returned to work within four to six weeks, with some performing desk work the week after their surgery.

Tillis, the 60-year-old Charlotte-area resident who is married with two grown children, is a former IBM consultant who joined the U.S. Senate after serving eight years in the North Carolina state House, the last four as House speaker.

His victory over Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan in 2014 helped the GOP take control of the Senate. He won reelection after narrowly defeating Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham in 2020 in what became the most expensive U.S. Senate race ever. Tillis serves on the armed services and judiciary committees and is a usually reliable vote for the Republican leadership.

Tillis’ GOP colleague in the chamber, Sen. Richard Burr, said in a statement that he is praying for Tillis and his wife, Susan.

“I’m confident Thom will tackle this latest challenge the way he approaches everything in life: with plenty of energy, good spirits, and the support of his friends and family,” Burr wrote.

WUNC's Mitchell Northam and Celeste Gracia contributed to this report.

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