Become a digitalPLUS subscriber. 99¢ for 4 weeks.

The Cardinal's Cancer Treatment

The next steps for Francis Cardinal George as he faces another battle with cancer. We spoke with a local oncologist who helped explain the type of treatment the cardinal will begin next week, and the side effects he'll likely experience.

It's been six years since Cardinal George's fight with bladder cancer. Since that time -- and like many cancer survivors – he's undergone routine CT scans to check his body for a recurrence.

Francis Cardinal George: "The assumption was that after six years having had my bladder removed and no sign of cancer, it wasn't in remission, it was cured."

Two weeks ago he had a biopsy, and the test results showed more cancer -- this time in his kidney and liver.

Cardinal George: "I had felt I had licked something and I didn't. So that isn't a good feeling."

On Monday, the Cardinal met with his doctors at Loyola University Medical Center to discuss a course of action. The plan -- chemotherapy. Rush oncologist John Showel treats patients with cancer like the cardinal's. He says there are four or five different chemical agents doctors use to destroy cancer cells like those found in the cardinal's kidney and liver. All come with uncomfortable side effects.

Dr. John Showel, medical oncologist at Rush University Medical Center: "I think probably the major side effects that he'll experience are fatigue and perhaps nausea. And the loss of appetite, perhaps some weight loss."

According to a statement from the Archdiocese of Chicago, Cardinal George will have six chemotherapy sessions -- each one three weeks in length. During the first two weeks of each session, he'll receive iv infusions of the chemo drugs. The third week will be one of rest -- time to allow his immune system to strengthen.

Dr. Showel: "Another major problem with chemotherapy is that it depresses the immune system and one's ability to ward off infections and to fight infections, so that can be a major side effect of chemotherapy."

According to the Archdiocese, the cardinal plans to maintain his regular work schedule as much as possible while he undergoes treatment.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun