On Wednesday, Jill Biden, the first lady, underwent a procedure to remove three skin lesions. Out of the three, two were determined to be cancerous, but the affected tissue was successfully removed.
According to her physician, Dr. Kevin O’Connor, who is also the physician to the president, the first lady is currently experiencing some facial swelling and bruising but is in good spirits and feeling well.
President Biden accompanied his wife to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda and stayed with her for approximately eight hours, leaving after Dr. O’Connor’s update.
The White House announced that the first lady is expected to return to the White House separately later in the day.
A week ago, the White House announced that the first lady would be having what’s known as Mohs surgery to remove a small lesion above her right eye that had been found during a routine skin cancer examination.
Basal cell carcinoma was confirmed in that lesion, O’Connor said. “All cancerous tissue was successfully removed, and the margins were clear of any residual skin cancer cells,” he said, noting the area will continue to be monitored.
Doctors found two more lesions while the first lady was at the hospital
When they were preparing the first lady for surgery, O’Connor said doctors saw a second lesion on Jill Biden’s left eyelid, so they removed it too, and sent it for microscopic examination.
They also identified “an additional area of concern” on the left side of her chest, and removed a lesion there using Mohs surgery. Basal cell carcinoma was also confirmed in that lesion, he said, noting all cancerous tissue had been removed.
O’Connor said that basal cell carcinoma do not tend to spread, like other serious skin cancers do, though they can increase in size, making them harder to remove.
What is Mohs surgery?
The procedure was developed in the late 1930s by surgeon Frederic Mohs and is used to remove basal and squamous cell carcinomas, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
Basal cell carcinomas are the most common type of skin cancer, but they grow slowly, so are typically mild and can be very treatable if detected early, the foundation said.
First, surgeons will typically mark the site of a patient’s biopsy and anesthetize the area to numb it. Patients are kept awake during the procedure.
The doctor then removes a visible layer of skin tissue from the area and takes it to the lab to be analyzed. There, they cut the tissue into sections, dye it and map out the area it was taken from. A technician freezes the tissue, further slices it thinly into horizontal sections and places it under a microscope for examination.
If cancer cells are present, another layer is removed from the surgical site and the process repeats until the cancer cells are gone.
Jill Biden has been a vocal advocate for fighting cancer
Elevating the fight to end cancer has been of Jill Biden’s signature priorities as first lady. The White House has said she has been involved since four of her friends were diagnosed with breast cancer in 1993. In 2015, her son Beau Biden died from brain cancer.
A year later, when he was vice president, Joe Biden started the “Cancer Moonshot,” a push to dramatic reduce the number of deaths from cancer. He and Jill Biden relaunched it last year.
As a dedicated advocate for cancer research and awareness, the first lady consistently visits various centers that focus on cancer treatment and research during her travels across the country. She encourages individuals to get screened and raises awareness about the issue through her interactions with the spouses of global political leaders. In October, she organized a series of roundtable discussions at the White House with the participation of Mary J. Blige. Additionally, in November, the first lady joined a World Series game in Philadelphia to support Major League Baseball’s cancer initiative.