WASHINGTON — President Biden had a cancerous lesion removed from his chest during his physical last month, the president’s doctor said Friday.
The existence of the lesion was included in the summary of Mr. Biden’s physical at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in mid-February. On Friday, Dr. Kevin C. O’Connor, the president’s longtime physician, said a biopsy confirmed that it was basal cell carcinoma, a common and relatively unaggressive form of skin cancer.
Dr. O’Connor said all the cancerous tissue was successfully removed and the area was treated through electrodessication, a procedure that uses electrical currents to remove skin lesions, and curettage, which removes tissue by scraping. Several small non-melanoma skin cancers on Mr. Biden were removed several years ago, Dr. O’Connor noted in his initial physical summary last month.
“The site of the biopsy has healed nicely, and the president will continue dermatologic surveillance as part of his ongoing comprehensive health care,” Dr. O’Connor wrote in a memo to Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary. In the doctor’s earlier summary, he said Mr. Biden was “fit to successfully execute the duties of the presidency.”
In recent weeks, Mr. Biden and his advisers have sought to signal that the 80-year-old president is healthy and capable of maintaining a physically rigorous schedule as he prepares to run for re-election in 2024. Last week, Mr. Biden secretly visited Ukraine, running on little sleep as he traveled into the war-ravaged country to meet with its president.
“Experienced? Yes Wise? Yes,” Ron Klain, Mr. Biden’s former chief of staff, wrote on Twitter. “Too old to do the job? You try doing this for your next long weekend.”
But Mr. Biden has become noticeably slower in his movements in recent years, walking stiffly as he makes his way to a White House podium or across the South Lawn. Dr. O’Connor said the stiffness is the result of “significant spinal arthritis, mild post-fracture foot arthritis and a mild sensory peripheral neuropathy of the feet,” for which the president undergoes physical therapy to regain more flexibility.
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The incidence of basal and squamous cell carcinomas, which are the most common forms of skin cancer in the United States and are rarely life-threatening, is 18 to 20 times as higher as that of melanoma. Each year, about 4.3 million American adults are treated for basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, according to government data. Most basal cell carcinomas are caused by prolonged exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sunlight, and skin cancers are more common in older people.
Doctors removed a basal cell carcinoma from the chest of Jill Biden, the first lady, and another from the area above her right eye in January after finding them during a physical examination. In a memo at the time, Dr. O’Connor said that all of the cancerous lesions had been removed and that Dr. Biden, who is 71, was “feeling well” after treatment.
The first lady received a procedure known as Mohs surgery, which consists of repeated removal of thin layers of skin and examination of each under a microscope to check for the presence of cancerous cells. She told The Associated Press in an interview in Africa last week that she was now “extra careful” about sunscreen.
Last year, the president and first lady introduced a plan to “supercharge” the Cancer Moonshot initiative to end cancer in the United States. Their son Beau died of brain cancer in 2015.
“Our goal is to cut the cancer death rate by at least 50 percent over the next 25 years,” Mr. Biden said in his State of the Union address last month. “Turn more cancers from death sentences into treatable diseases. And provide more support for patients and families.
“It’s personal for so many of us,” he added.