UPDATE: 'What ifs' for Portland, Brennan after mayor reveals cancer surgery

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PORTLAND — Mayor Michael Brennan is recovering at home after having a cancerous tumor removed from his intestine.

A press release late Thursday said surgery was performed last weekend at Maine Medical Center and Brennan’s prognosis is “excellent,” although he will continue to be treated for lesions discovered on his liver.

City Hall spokeswoman Nicole Clegg said in the release that Brennan’s surgery involved the removal of a carcinoid tumor from his small intestine. 

According to the National Cancer Institute, the federal government’s principal agency for cancer research and training, carcinoid tumors typically are slow-growing tumors that originate in the cells of the gastrointestinal tract.

They rarely produce symptoms in the early stages, but can cause redness in the face or neck, swollen ankles, shortness of breath, rapid heart rate and soreness or fullness in the abdomen if the cancer spreads to another part of the body. 

According to the city’s press release, Brennan received a clean bill of health during his annual medical exam in August. But he began to experience stomach cramps about two weeks ago, which led to the cancer diagnosis.

In response to the limited information contained in the city’s press release, an NCI information specialist, who is not a medical professional, said treatment options vary for carcinoid tumors that spread to the liver. They include chemotherapy, radiation, liver transplants, radio-frequency and blood treatments.

Depending on the location, severity and treatment of the cancer, five-year survival rates vary from 61 percent to 31 percent, according to the NCI representative.

Clegg said Brennan would not undergo chemotherapy or radiation, but called his long-term prognosis is “excellent.” She said Brennan hopes to return to work next week in a limited capacity.

If Brennan is unable to return, City Councilor Nicholas Mavodones Jr., who was appointed mayor pro tem at Brennan’s inauguration Dec. 5, will chair City Council meetings and attend any other official events on the mayor’s behalf.

If Brennan is absent more than 60 consecutive days, the City Charter requires the council to appoint a sitting councilor as acting mayor.

The charter also states that any elected office, including the mayor, is automatically declared vacant if the office holder misses six consecutive meetings, or fails to attend 60 percent of scheduled meetings in a calendar year.

But that provision could be waived by a vote of four councilors “for health reasons or other good cause.”

If the seat is declared vacant, a special election would be held to fill it within 127 days, according to the charter.

Mavodones said he last spoke with Brennan before the mayor had surgery. He said Brennan seemed to be taking his diagnosis as well as one could in that situation.

“His spirits were good,” Mavodones said. “Thank God he’s gone through the surgery well.”

In the city press release, Brennan took the opportunity to use his situation to promote “barrier-free” access to health care for everyone.

“Lack of health insurance should not force anyone to make a choice between a visit to their primary care physician and groceries or child care or heating oil,” he said.

Brennan said one in four Mainers do not have health insurance, and elected officials have a moral responsibility to develop policies and strategies to make high-quality care, including preventative and diagnostic services, available to everyone.

“My personal story illustrates the fundamental need all Mainers have to be able to access the health care system when they need to,” he said. “If I had waited or left this disease untreated, both the health consequences and cost of treatment would have been significantly greater.”

Brennan, 58, was elected in November. He is the city’s first popularly elected mayor since 1923.

The City Council’s next regularly scheduled meeting is Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2012.

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @randybillings

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Portland Mayor Michael Brennan

Mayor’s disclosure comes 9 days after newspaper inquiry

PORTLAND — On Dec. 20, The Forecaster received an anonymous tip that newly elected Mayor Michael Brennan had been diagnosed with cancer.

When called that morning by reporter Emily Parkhurst, Brennan said “I don’t have anything to tell you about that right now.” When asked if he thought it was the public’s right to know if he were sick, Brennan repeated that he did not have anything to say.

The mayor did not confirm or deny that he had cancer. He said only that The Forecaster would “find out about it the way everyone else does.”

On Thursday, Dec. 29, at 5:33 p.m., City Hall spokeswoman Nicole Clegg released the following statement:

Mayor Brennan Undergoes Treatment for Cancer, Prognosis Excellent

PORTLAND, Maine: Today, City of Portland Mayor Michael Brennan shared news that over the weekend he underwent surgery to remove a carcinoid tumor from his small intestine. Mayor Brennan sought treatment for recent stomach cramps two weeks ago, during which the tumor was discovered. The tumor was successfully removed and Mayor Brennan will seek additional, non-invasive treatment for lesions found on the liver. Due to the nature of this type of cancer, no chemotherapy or radiation will be necessary and according to his physician, his prognosis is excellent. Prior to this diagnosis, Brennan had received an excellent bill of health from his primary care physician during his annual exam in August.

“I am extremely grateful to my primary care practitioner, surgeon, nurses and other medical professionals who provided me with exceptional care and I thank them for their treatment and the compassion they extended to me and my family,” stated Mayor Brennan.

“Cancer can be an extremely frightening diagnosis and I am fortunate to not only have a treatment plan with a very positive long term prognosis but as an insured American have barrier free access to the health care system. My personal story illustrates the fundamental need all Mainers have to be able to access the health care system when they need to. If I had waited or left this disease untreated, both the health consequences and cost of treatment would have been significantly greater.”

“With nearly one in four Mainers living without health insurance, it’s clear to me that we have a moral responsibility to develop policies and strategies that ensure that everyone has access to high quality care including prevention and diagnostic services. The simple truth is that tens of thousands of Americans will find themselves in the same situation today, tomorrow, or the next day and they should be afforded the same level of care I have been fortunate enough to receive. Lack of health insurance should not force anyone to make a choice between a visit to their primary care physician and groceries or child care or heating oil.”

Mayor Brennan was released from Maine Medical Center yesterday and is recovering comfortably at home. He intends to return to City Hall next week on a limited basis until he is fully recovered from the surgery.

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