Former President Carter Announces He Has Cancer On His Brain


Former President Jimmy Carter announced this morning that he has cancer which has spread to his brain:

ATLANTA — Former President Jimmy Carter said Thursday that doctors had found cancer on his brain and that he would begin radiation treatments later in the day.

During a news conference at the Carter Center here, Mr. Carter said that he had four melanoma spots on his brain and that another cancerous mass had been removed from his liver during a procedure on Aug. 3. He had announced last week that he had cancer, but Thursday’s appearance was the first time that he publicly detailed his condition.

“I’m perfectly at ease with whatever comes,” Mr. Carter said. “I do have a deep religious faith, which I’m very grateful for.”

He acknowledged, however, immediate feelings that he “had just a few weeks left” when he first learned of the cancer on his brain.

Mr. Carter, dressed in a blazer and bluejeans, was by turns clinical and homespun as he outlined his treatment plans, including months of radiation.

He announced that he would curtail his schedule and work at the Carter Center, the nonprofit he co-founded in 1982, the year after he left the White House. But he said he still hoped to travel to Nepal in November to work with Habitat for Humanity, an organization he has long supported.

Mr. Carter’s doctors began to scrutinize his health closely after he caught a cold while traveling in Guyana this spring. His doctors, at Emory University in Atlanta, noticed a mass on his liver that they believed was cancerous, but surgery was delayed because Mr. Carter was scheduled to begin a book tour.

After the Aug. 3 procedure, which Mr. Carter’s office described at the time as “elective,” doctors concluded that the cancer was also in his brain. Mr. Carter, whose wife, Rosalynn, sat nearby on Thursday, said that his doctors had scheduled four radiation treatments at three-week intervals, and that he would receive another treatment intravenously.

Cancer has been a particular problem in the Carter family as his mother, his brother Billy, and both of his sisters all died of pancreatic cancer, with his siblings all passing at relatively young ages. The fact that the former President has lived this long without succumbing to the same issues is fortunate for him, and possibly for his immediate future since there is no sign that the cancer has spread to his pancreas as of yet. Nonetheless, when cancer has spread to multiple parts of the body, and especially the brain, it is obviously a serious situation. Here’s hoping the best for the former President and his family going forward.


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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. gVOR08 says:

    I’m terribly saddened. But still contributing at 90. What a long, full, productive life.

  2. michael reynolds says:

    The man is 90 and we all die, but damned few of us live this life. Lousy president, good man, great ex-president.

  3. Ron Beasley says:

    If I was 90 I would not be willing to go through and the medical interventions he is going to go through. Even at 69 and I found out I had liver, pancreatic or brain cancer I would tell them to give me enough morphine to keep me comfortable and when that no loner worked I would take advantage of Oregon’s doctor assisted suicide.

  4. CSK says:

    Given Carter’s religious beliefs, suicide seems incompatible with them. This is a very bad diagnosis. At some point, a morphine drip will be necessary to alleviate the intractable pain. I hope his suffering is not prolonged.

  5. de stijl says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Lousy president

    If you like good American-made beer, thank President Carter.

    Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.

  6. anjin-san says:

    Carter was a poor president, but I’m hard pressed to think of someone in American life I admire more.

  7. Kylopod says:

    @de stijl: Okay. That, and a certain meeting at Camp David.

    I do agree with MR, though, that he was a lousy president and a good man.

  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I have to admit I am puzzled by expressions of how lousy a President Carter was. I mean, by what measure? On a scale of W to Nixon to Reagan, Carter isn’t even on that graph of corruption and ineptitude. Carter may not have been a good President, but he was head and shoulders above Reagan. If you don’t believe me, ask any one from Central America.

  9. Kylopod says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I’m of two minds on this. On the one hand, Carter’s handling of the job of the presidency–what the political scientist Jonathan Bernstein has called “presidenting”–can best be described as inept. This is not about the value of his policies, but about his ability to implement his policy agenda in the first place. He had terrible relations with Congress, even though he began his presidency with large Democratic majorities, and it impacted his ability to pass legislation. (This is one reason why I’m skeptical of the theory endorsed by Doug and others that former governors make the best presidents; the ability to work with a legislature in Georgia or other states does not necessarily prepare a candidate for the rough-and-tumble of Washington politics.)

    On the other hand, it’s true that some of the things which sunk his presidency were beyond his control. I think anyone elected in 1976 would faced the stagflation crisis. If Ford had won, it’s very likely the 1980 election would have been won by a Democrat. If Reagan had beaten Ford in the 1976 primaries and gone on to be elected that year, he’d probably be remembered today as a one-term failure. The stories we tell about presidents can never be totally separated from their political fortunes, and there’s always a degree of luck involved.

  10. Tillman says:

    Carter successfully negotiated the release of hostages from the Iranians *after* a botched military attempt to rescue them, and none(?) of the hostages died.

    So yeah, I don’t consider him a lousy president.

  11. dmhlt says:

    Not only did he look good, he sure hasn’t lost his sense of humor:

    QUESTION: In the time that you have left, what would give you the most satisfaction to see something happen?

    CARTER: “I’d like for the last Guinea worm to die before I do,”

    According to the Carter Center when it began its Guinea worm eradication program in 1986 there were an estimated 3.5 million cases annually in Africa and Asia.
    In 2014, there were 126 cases. Mr. Carter thinks that’s still too many.

  12. michael reynolds says:


    That’s exactly why he was a lousy president. He was weak. The winning move when hostages are taken is to write off the hostages. He prioritized the hostages over national security and we have been eating sh*t for it ever since.

    “I’ve got hostages!”

    “Yeah? I’ve got Marines and an Air Force and nukes and I’m already writing the condolence letters to the hostage families. Your move.”

  13. Grewgills says:

    @michael reynolds:
    That is not what any modern president would have done. Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, or Obama, not one of them would have followed that advice. Do you really think otherwise? If not, does that make them all weak and all of them lousy presidents? or just lucky it didn’t fall on their watch?

  14. michael reynolds says:


    Politics, especially international politics, is a power game. What I described is the winning move. It may not be the humane move (though I think it’s that as well, in the long run), and it’s not the bien pensant move, but it is the winning move.

    We are the world’s sole superpower. You don’t get to be the most powerful nation on earth by sentimentality, you do it by winning the power game. For my entire youth we held the position that if we were attacked with a single Soviet nuclear weapon, we would retaliate with such ferocity that humanity itself might be rendered extinct. We called it MAD, and it was also mad, but it was the winning move.

    That’s not the only example, but I don’t want to prose on for too long. Suffice to say that you don’t outplay people like Hitler or Stalin or Kim or the Ayatollah Khomeini, by handling things the way a Sunday School teacher might. They move, you make a countermove.

    Any beginning chess player knows you sometimes have to sacrifice some pawns.

    Their move was seizing 52 US government employees, a percentage of our population so small we don’t have room for all the decimal places. 52 people, what we lose on the highways in 14 hours. Because we treated those deaths as unacceptable, we accepted the hostage-taker’s terms. And with that, we lost the game.

    What followed were hundreds of more hostage-takings, and they continue today. I would argue that 9-11 is a direct consequence of that lost game. And the Iraq and Afghanistan wars followed in due course.

    The job of the president is to win, to advance the cause of the nation, the 300 million, not the cause of 52 people.

    What we should have done is set a deadline for Tehran, and at the end of that deadline we should have obliterated Iran’s navy and air force and then set about destroying its oil facilities, its ports, its economic infrastructure. They would surely have killed the hostages, but the message would have been sent that we do not allow ourselves to be bullied, and that anyone harming an American would suffer a thousand-fold.

    Now, it has long been known that the Taliban did not believe they were taking any great risk in harboring Al Qaeda. Had the dismemberment of Iran been on the books, would they have allowed Osama bin laden to pull off 9-11? Almost certainly no. Carter saved 52 and lost thousands.

    Sometimes the bad-ass move is the humane move. Carter was weak. He made the wrong move. He laid the groundwork for decades of terrorism. That’s why he was a lousy president.

  15. Grewgills says:

    @michael reynolds:
    I understand your position, but again the direct question was what modern president would actually have done what you advocate? Do you think Reagan would have? Would either Clinton? Would either Bush have? Obama? I think I am right when I say that not a one of them would have followed the course you advocate and all of them would have taken action similar to Carter’s. Their tone when speaking publicly may have differed a bit, but their actions not so much. I think their history in dealing with terrorist actions backs my position on this. So, does that mean that all modern presidents are weak and that we should classify them all as lousy presidents?
    Keep in mind too, that if the rescue operation hadn’t run into that storm the Carter story would have been very different.

  16. michael reynolds says:


    Yeah, but what do each of the presidents you list have in common? They all came after Jimmy Carter had created the precedent.

  17. Lit3Bolt says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I think Vietnam fatigue was a factor in Carter’s decision making, but agree with your analysis.

    Take the Russians for example. They know how the crazy game works and while they still suffer occasional attacks, their ruthlessness in taking out their own people to get at the terrorists has been duly noted.

  18. Grewgills says:

    @michael reynolds:
    You sidestepped the question. Do you think every president since Carter was/is weak and a lousy president. Precedent, particularly bad precedent, doesn’t have to be followed.
    I don’t think Nixon, Johnson, or Kennedy would have followed your advocated course of action either.