Tony Snow Has Liver Cancer

Tony Snow has been diagnosed with liver cancer.

Presidential spokesman Tony Snow’s surgery to remove a small growth showed that his cancer has returned, the White House said Tuesday.

Snow, 51, had his colon removed in 2005 and underwent six months of chemotherapy after being diagnosed with colon cancer. A small growth was discovered last year in his lower right pelvic area, and it was removed on Monday. Doctors determined that it was cancerous, and that his cancer had metastized, or spread, to his liver, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

She said Snow is resting comfortably after his surgery and has pledged to aggressively fight the disease with an as-yet-to-be-determined treatment course. “He said he’s going to beat it again,” Perino said in an emotional morning briefing with White House reporters. “When I talked to him, he was in very good spirits.”

Michelle Malkin has a lengthy roundup of well wishes, tributes and recollections. He’s always seemed a likable fellow to me and a second bout with cancer at age 51 is cruel, indeed.

The American Cancer Society does not offer great hope for liver cancer sufferers:

At this time surgery, either to remove the tumor or to do a liver transplant, offers the only chance to cure liver cancer. If all of the cancer that the surgeon can see at the time of the operation can be removed, you have the best outlook for survival. Complete removal of most liver cancers is not possible. Often the cancer is large, is found in many different parts of the liver, or has spread beyond the liver. Also, many people with cirrhosis do not have enough healthy liver left to make surgery an option.

A liver transplant has become an option for people with small liver cancers. For now, this method is reserved for those with a few small tumors but whose cancer cannot be totally removed, either because of the location of the tumors or because not enough normal liver remains. Over 2500 transplants were performed in people with liver cancer in the last 2 years. The 5-year survival for these patients is around 70%. Not only is the risk of a second new liver cancer eliminated, but the new liver will function normally.

Not many livers are available for patients with cancer because they are most often used for more curable diseases. Patients often must wait a long time, often too long, for a liver to be found. For that reason, some doctors suggest a limited resection first and then a transplant if the cancer comes back.

Thankfully, secondary liver cancer–that which spreads to the liver from other parts of the body–has a much better prognosis than primary liver cancer, which begins in the liver.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Anon says:

    This is terrible news.

    And I am angered by some of the comments over at Kevin Drum’s blog, coming from “my side”.

  2. Tano says:

    It is a bit confusing to refer to this as “liver cancer”, since that term usually refers to primary liver cancer – i.e. cancer that arises in liver-specific tissues.

    The little blurb you provide, for instance, discusses that kind of cancer.

    Mr. Snow has colorectal cancer, which not only arose in a different place, but in a different type of cell. It is those cells that have moved to, and continued to proliferate, in his liver. So it really is a different cancer than “liver cancer”.

  3. Eneils Bailey says:

    Tony Snow is good person in a difficult situation, both personally and professionally.
    Hopes he handles his personal bout with cancer as well as he has served the President, and vice versa.
    As we say down here, damn good guy.