Bush colonoscopy reveals polyps

The Baltimore Sun

WASHINGTON -- Five small polyps removed yesterday from President Bush's colon will be examined for signs of cancer, but the White House said that none "appeared worrisome" and are considered likely to be benign.

The results of testing, to be conducted at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, will be announced by Tuesday and will "determine the final diagnosis and recommendations for future examinations," according to a White House statement.

Each polyp was less than 1 centimeter in diameter, meaning they were probably caught before cancer could develop. The procedure was performed at Camp David under the supervision of Bush's physician, Dr. Richard Tubb.

The 31-minute exam, for which Bush was sedated, marked the second time that he has invoked the 25th Amendment of the Constitution temporarily to hand presidential duties over to Vice President Dick Cheney. The first time was five years ago while Bush underwent the same procedure.

Bush transferred power, as required, with letters to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate President Pro Tem Robert C. Byrd, informing them shortly after 7 a.m. that he was "unable to discharge the constitutional powers and duties of the office of the president of the United States."

Cheney, who was at his Chesapeake Bay vacation home in St. Michaels, served as acting president for two hours and five minutes yesterday, until Bush reclaimed his authority at 9:21 a.m.

Polyps, common among men in their 50s and older, can lead to cancer if left untreated. Bush, 61, had two polyps removed in the years before he took office and was advised to undergo a colonoscopy every five years. None were found in 2002, and aides said he was exhibiting no symptoms of illness before Saturday's exam.

"It's unlikely that any of these five polyps will be a problem," said Dr. David Weinberg, director of gastroenterology at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. "But the gold standard is to have a pathologist look at them under a microscope after they've [been] sliced into thin sections."

Weinberg said the surest way to prevent cancer is to follow Bush's example.

"Colon cancer screening is not as universally performed as it should be," he said. "The normal biological direction that things go is from a normal lining of the colon to a polyp to a cancer. If you don't have polyps, or if you have them and remove them before they have time to turn into trouble, that markedly reduces the chance that anyone will ever develop colon cancer."

White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said that the president was administered a low-dosage sedative and was never fully unconscious. He awoke several minutes after doctors cut off the sedative, then ate breakfast with chief of staff Joshua B. Bolten, counsel Fred Fielding and national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley.

"The president was in good humor and will resume his normal activities at Camp David," Stanzel said.

The surest sign of that was Bush's plan for yesterday afternoon: a bike ride through the wooded hills of the presidential retreat.

Peter Wallsten writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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