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Cardinal Francis George to begin chemotherapy next week

Francis Cardinal George discusses his medical conditiafter learning from his doctors thinitial test results from procedure showed cancerous cells his

Francis Cardinal George discusses his medical condition after learning from his doctors that initial test results from a procedure showed cancerous cells in his kidney and in a nodule that was removed from his liver. Afterwards, the Cardinal appears at the annual Hispanic Ministry Awards Banquet, “Noche de Gala" at the Drury Lane Conference, in Oakbrook Terrace on Friday, August 24, 2012. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

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Updated: September 30, 2012 6:18AM

Cardinal Francis George will begin more than four months of chemotherapy next week after a recent cancer diagnosis, the archdiocese said in a statement Tuesday.

George met with doctors at Loyola University Medical Center on Monday and learned there are cancer cells in his right kidney, though it appeared all the cancer cells in his liver had been removed during a procedure on Aug. 15. Tests did not “conclude with certainty” there was cancer in other organs, though the statement said that cancer cells in the bloodstream cannot be detected through testing.

On Sept. 5, George, 75, will start a three-week cycle of chemotherapy that will last for six sessions total, the archdiocese said. The first two weeks of each cycle involve active treatment. The third week is for the cardinal’s immune system to recuperate.

George battled bladder cancer in 2006, undergoing radical surgery that left him cancer-free at the time. Dr. Walter Stadler, an oncologist and professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, said from the archdiocesan statement it appears George’s previous cancer has reappeared.

“I think what’s in his favor are the total amounts of cancer they are able to see are rather minimal,” said Stadler, who is not treating the cardinal. “I think that’s good news, not to minimize the seriousness of the situation.”

He said George’s treatment plan was “reasonably standard chemo for the condition. “It usually works in regards to shrinking the tumor and in terms of slowing down the progression of the disease,” he said.

George plans to maintain his regular work schedule, though public appearances will be reduced because of his suppressed immune system, the statement from the archdiocese said.

Doctors at the Mayo Clinic also were consulted on the diagnosis and treatment plan, the statement said.

“With a grateful heart, Cardinal George would like to acknowledge all the people who have sent cards and email notes expressing their concern and promising their prayers,” the statement read. “Please continue to keep the Cardinal in your thoughts and prayers.”

Last Friday, before a public appearance at a banquet for Hispanic Catholics and without yet knowing the course of his treatment, a healthy-looking George joked with reporters about possible treatments.

“I’m hoping that should it be chemo, and I’m not looking forward to that, I might get some hair which I haven’t had for a long time,” he said.

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