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Doctors Release John McCain's Medical Records; Devastating Diagnostics of Brain Cancer; Helping Wounded Warriors to a More Normal Life; The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Eating on the Road

Aired May 24, 2008 - 08:30   ET


SANJAY GUPTA, CNN HOST: Good morning. Welcome to a very special edition of HOUSE CALL. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta reporting from Arizona that could potentially affect your vote.
Doctors speaking out about Senator John McCain's health. In fact, under surprising secrecy, they released his medical records in this building here behind me. I was here. I'll show you what I found.

Also, an inside look at the devastating diagnostics of brain cancer.

And an amazing new procedure helping wounded warriors return to a more normal life. You're going to have to see this cutting edge science to really believe it.

Finally, if you're hitting the highway this weekend, tune in and learn the good, the bad, and the ugly of eating on the road.

First up, though, politics and medicine collided this week. Two political power houses making health headlines. We're going to have the details about Senator Kennedy's diagnosis of brain cancer.

And also, breaking news about the presumptive Republican nominee Senator John McCain. We have been waiting for months to see his medical records to get some clues into his fitness and into his health as president.

On Friday, they released his medical records right here in Phoenix, right here in this building behind me. Here's what I found.


GUPTA (voice-over): We're learning just how extensive McCain's operation for melanoma was in 2000. Doctors removed 34 lymph nodes in his neck. Doctors say the high number was due an abundance of caution. He still has swelling that is obvious.

McCain's had melanoma removed four times. The most recent in 2002. There's a 66 percent chance of it recurring within ten years. Eight years have already passed.

Also new, McCain had skin cancer taken off his leg in February of this year. Squamous cell carcinoma. His campaign insists it's under control. Blood pressure, 134 over 84. Fine. Cholesterol 192. That's down from 226 just five years ago. It looks like the medications are helping here.

He's also had an operation to reduce the size of his prostate. He smoked two packs a day for 25 years up until 1980 and had polyps removed from his colon, but no signs of cancer from any of those.

He was beaten and tortured while a POW. His shoulders were both broken. To this day, he can't lift them over his head. And doctors say he may need both shoulders replaced.

He does get dizzy from time to time, especially when tipping his head back. Diagnosis? Vertigo, a problem with his inner ear.

As far as fitness goes, medical records had him at both 5'6" and 5'9". We'll go with 5'9". Weight 163. That puts his BMI at 24. Pretty good pushing the normal limits. His heart and circulatory system were all within normal limits for a man his age.


GUPTA: Discover which presidents kept their a health a secret, including a clandestine operation at sea. That's this weekend on my special called "The First Patient: Health and the Presidency." Tune in tonight at 8:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. Eastern.

Also, shocking news this week about Senator Ted Kennedy. After suffering a seizure, doctors diagnosed the political legend with a malignant tumor in a critical part of his brain.

Senator Ted Kennedy, an icon of politics, now diagnosed with brain cancer. Most people have heard this. Doctors treating the senator tell CNN the tumor is in the left parietal lobe, an area of critical importance, especially for a public figure like Kennedy who relies on his voice, on his speech, to work the political landscape.


SENATOR TED KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: What counts in our leadership?


GUPTA: That area of the brain controls language. It also controls motor skills on the opposite side of the body.

I want to show you some pretty dramatic images here. This is a GE Advantage workstation. This is not FDA approved for diagnosis, but it still offers a rare look inside the brain. This is not the senator's brain, but this is how they sort of take a look at things. I am essentially recreating the head here, taking slice by slice, image brain piece by piece. You can see the eyes here, the nose.

Come over to this side here and you see an area of critical importance. The eyes are pointing this way, the nose as well. It is this left parietal lobe that is so critically important. You can expand that a little bit, take a better look. And right in here is where doctors get very concerned, because that is an area called the motor strip. It is responsible for that motor strength. Also, around that area as well are those areas that responsible for speech. Doctors need to determine does this tumor actually interfere with those areas? That is one of the crucial questions they have to ask and answer.

Take a look now. I'm going to give you one more orientation here to give you a better sense of how this works exactly. Sort of spin the brain around a little bit here. Amazing three dimensions.

And I'm going to show you now in a slightly different orientation. See the spine here. The eyes are facing this way, the nose. It is this area again, the left parietal lobe. That tumor might look like an octopus with tentacles reaching into the brain. That is what makes it invasive. That is what makes it of concern.

Now one more thing. We've heard that the senator had an operation back in October, an operation on his corroded artery, an artery in the neck to restore blood supply to his brain. This is looked at -- maybe very few people have gotten a chance to see it. Let me take away the skin first. The skin is gone. You see the artery. Take away the muscle as well. And now you get a clear look at this particular artery. That is the artery that doctors operated back in October.

At first when he had the problems on Saturday, they thought this might be a stroke. In fact, it was a seizure. A seizure actually 50 percent of the time is the first indication of a brain tumor.

Now as far as the prognosis goes, this could range from months to years, depending on the exact type and location of his tumor.

So just how common is brain cancer? It accounts for 1.3 percent of all cancers. And the majority of cases occur in those over the age of 55.

We are going to continue to follow the condition of Senator Kennedy. And certainly any details that come to us, we'll bring to you. But we got to thinking, and there are a lot of people out there who also face the diagnosis of cancer. What are some tips for them? We're going to have those for you in 60 seconds.

Plus, cell phone dangers. Is there a new cause for concern? Details, minutes away.


GUPTA: Since hearing about Senator Kennedy, CNN's i-Reporters have been sending in their own stories of survival, like this one from Oscar Iglesias, who sent us this message about his wife.


OSCAR IGLESIAS: My wife Melissa was diagnosed with a mixed scleoma on her right temporal lobe in 2002 after having a seizure. She's had two surgeries since and has recovered well from both. In 2006, she gave birth to our son Maron at the same hospital where she had her last surgery, which has helped to replace bad memories with good ones.


GUPTA: A cancer diagnosis is always a shock. Sort of a punch in the gut, but where can you turn if you're suddenly faced with that? One day you're out walking your dog, and the next day you're facing cancer. That's exactly what happened to Senator Ted Kennedy. So we wanted to give you some tips.

And Elizabeth Cohen is here with this week's "Empowered Patient."


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Sanjay, every year, 1.4 million Americans receive a cancer diagnosis. And as you said, it is shocking. So what do you do next? Well, in this week's "Empowered Patient," we have links to the most useful cancer information on the Internet, the place that you want to go when you're first diagnosed with cancer.

Let's take a look at some of the information you can get in the links that we have in this week's column. For example, you can find out how to read your pathology report. That's very important. That's the report that tells you what kind of cancer you have, how fast it's growing. And with a little bit of education, people who aren't even doctors can learn how to read these reports.

Also, you'll learn how to pick an oncologist, the right questions to ask them, and also reviewing treatment options. There's really good information about what options are out there for some of the more common types of cancer.

Now cancer is not just the devastating diagnosis medically. It can also be devastating financially, even for people who do have good health insurance. There are lots of different places on the Internet that people can look to try to get financial assistance, but they're hard to find. So we found them for you. And let's take a look at what some of the options are.

For example, you can get financial help for treatment if you don't have insurance or if your insurance isn't that great. You can also get financial help for medicines that are costly and also for travel in case you need to go somewhere to get the care you need. All of that information is on


GUPTA: Thanks, Elizabeth. Coming up, cell phones and your health. Most studies say they're safe, but a new study may shed some doubts. I'll tell you what I'm talking about. That's in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) GUPTA: Welcome back to HOUSE CALL. We need to check some of the other medical headlines happening this week. So we turn to Judy Fortin -- Judy?



Research suggests quitting smoking may boost your social life. Smoking has steadily decreased over the past 30 years. And authors of a new study say those who continue to smoke are increasingly pushed out of social circles. The reason people often quit smoking in groups. And non-smokers often form new social connections. Researchers say this could be used as a tool to help encourage positive health behaviors within groups.

Also in the news, possible risks of using cell phones while pregnant. Researchers following more than 13,000 children over several years found women who use cell phones just two or three times a day during pregnancy had a more than 50 percent increased risk of their child being hyperactive.

And kids who began using cell phones before age of 7 were 18 percent more likely to exhibit hyperactivity. Health and industry officials maintain that wireless phones do not pose a significant health risk, but researchers say more study is needed on the long-term effects.

Those are this week's medical headlines.


GUPTA: Now on this Memorial Day, there's some new hope out there for some of the nation's most badly wounded troops. Barbara Starr's been following that in San Antonio, Texas. And she brings us their report.

But I got to warn you, some of the material you're about to see could be graphic -- Barbara?


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Sanjay, it may sound like science fiction, but here at Brooke Army Medical Center, doctors are performing the first surgeries that someday could lead to injured patients being able to regrow missing body parts.

(voice-over): Army Sergeant Shiloh Harris is wheeled into history making surgery at Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas. Harris was badly wounded in Iraq. Military doctors now are trying to regrow one of Harris' missing fingers. Dr. Steven Wolf is senior surgeon at Brooke.

STEVEN WOLF, DR., BROOKE ARMY MEDICAL CENTER: For instance, you don't have a finger, we want to grow a finger for you. OK, if you don't have a bladder, we want to grow a bladder for you. If you don't have muscle, you're missing some muscle, we want to put -- make that muscle come back.

STARR: It's the emerging field known as regenerative medicine. In surgery, Wolf cuts back the skin on what's left of Harris' finger and sprinkles on a powder made from pig tissue and then sews it all closed. Dr. Wolf believes the powder will help Sergeant Harris' body to begin regrowing a new finger within weeks. How does it all work? Experts say it's like a salamander regrowing limbs.

WOLF: The stem cells that are circulating through that patient's body see this stuff, say oh, look, I need to stop here because this environment is telling me to stop. And where am I? Oh, I'm a finger. OK, I need to start making finger stuff.

STARR: The impact of this new science could be huge. The Pentagon is so hopeful, it's taking part in a $250 million research effort with several leading universities and hospitals.

Nearly 700 troops have suffered burns. More than 900 have had limbs amputated as a result of battlefield injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan. Regenerative medicine offers the potential for a better quality of life by trying to restore lost tissue.

WOLF: It sounds like science fiction. It is, but science fiction eventually becomes true, doesn't it?

STARR (on camera): If all of this works, some day, the benefit of regenerative medicine will be an improved quality of life, not just for the injured troops, but for anyone suffering a traumatic injury -- Sanjay?

GUPTA: Barbara, wow, thank you very much. Losing a limb, some say there's nothing that takes away the pain, but I met a doctor who's come up with a simple solution. I'll show that to you.

Plus, on the road and starving. We'll give you some simple and smart tips for eating on the run. Stay tuned.


GUPTA: Welcome back to a special edition of HOUSE CALL on this Memorial Day weekend. We're reporting to you from Phoenix, Arizona.

You know, hundreds of amputees have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. They've had traumatic amputations. They've lost their limbs. And they have pain. Oftentimes it's phantom pain and it can be so severe that 95 percent of them on average say that no medication can actually take care of it.

So we went to Walter Reed Army Hospital, where they've come up with a solution that's almost so simple you won't believe it. Take a look.


GUPTA (voice-over): Sergeant Nick Paupore's convoy had been hit by a roadside bomb. SGT. NICK PAUPORE, U.S. ARMY: When I woke up, I had a sense of loss, just like losing a part of your body that's been there your whole life.

GUPTA: For Paupore, the day had started like any other in Iraq -- hot, dusty. And then without warning, they were hit.

PAUPORE: And of course, I could feel a rush of the EFP going through the vehicle, of the -- a change of pressure and then up in smoke.

GUPTA: Paupore lost his entire right leg. His whole life changed. The worst part was the pain.

PAUPORE: All of a sudden, it just -- it -- like someone kept like turning on and off a taser. And just my whole leg started twitching. It's like I sat up and I like hold on to my stump. And it just -- it wouldn't stop.

GUPTA: Phantom limb pain.

JACK TSAO, DR., UNIFORMED SERVICES UNIVERSITY: It's the sensation that the limb is still present. And phantom pain, in particular, is the sensation that the limb is experiencing pain of some form.

GUPTA: When it comes to war, traumatic amputation's nothing new, nor is phantom pain. The problem is almost nothing works. Drugs, therapy, the pain is awful.

PAUPORE: It was enough to make me sit up and curl up and hold on to my stump. You can push all the medicine in the world and it won't stop it.

GUPTA: Dr. Jack Tsao says 95 percent of people who lose a limb have phantom pain.

Is that the source of the phantom pain, these nerves that once present that now have to be cut in half?

TSAO: The thinking now is that it must be generated somehow in the brain in terms of how the brain interprets the signals from pain. They're from the pain pathways that are left.

GUPTA: So how to trick the mind into believing the leg is still there? It's remarkably simple. A mirror.

PAUPORE: That it's actually making me feel like my foot's there.

GUPTA: Take a look at this. It looks like Paupore has two legs. And that's exactly what the doctors want his brain to see. He sees and moves his leg like this. It's called neurotherapy. And Paupore started with 15 minutes a day, four to five days a week. Within five months, he was pain free.

A lot of what we're seeing here basically is just using a $20 mirror to basically make it seem like his right limb is still there. That's all it is. And what that does basically is coordinates his visual. He's actually visualizing this with what's known as his position of the right leg.

Coordinating those things together really helps, at least according to Dr. Sal's study, to get rid of a lot of this phantom pain.

Once a skeptic, Paupore is now a true believer. The mirror therapy has helped Paupore reflect on all that's happened and perhaps also given him a different and more positive view of how he'll deal with his future.


GUPTA: Now, if you'd like to help the families of the fallen and injured troops, just click over to Our impact your world site will link you to reputable charities.

Coming up, video games as exercise. Can they really replace the gym? I'll show you. And also, what to eat and what to avoid when you're hitting the road for summer vacation. We've got a look at your favorite drive throughs.


GUPTA: Summer is just around the corner. And for many of you, that might mean you have a road trip planned. It can also mean that you have to navigate the fast food jungle of the interstate. But have no fear, Molly Paulson is here to teach us what we can eat and what we should avoid at some of our favorite stops.


MOLLY PAULSON, REGISTERED DIETICIAN: Fast food restaurants are catching on to consumer demand for lighter fare. Take for instance, Taco Bell. This is what you're used to seeing at Taco Bell. It has the high fat sour cream and cheese and some of their special sauces that you get on the normal fare.

You can get your favorite items in the Fresco menu. What Fresco does is it replaces the high fat, high calorie sauces that you see here and the cheese as well, and gives you a more authentic salsa consisting of tomato, onion, and cilantro, still giving you the great taste, more authentic, and it's half the calories of what you're used to having at Taco Bell.

At Starbucks, you can go with the skinny option, which is zero calorie sweetener and non-fat whole milk, compared to the whole milk and the whip cream that you get in the regular option, that has a lot of saturated fat and calories.

Again with the hot beverages, this one is the whole milk version with whipped cream. And it's going to be about 200 more calories than the skinny option, which is going to be zero calories of sweetener and non-fat milk as well. You can still have your burger and fries, but it's all about portion control. So here's a double cheeseburger with everything on it and a biggie fry or a large fry, and then a large soda. You can get the same burger and fry taste with just going down your portion size to a junior cheeseburger deluxe, a small fry. And then instead of drinking your calories, you can have water. It's all about portion control when you're eating a hamburger.

At other fast food restaurants such as Arby's, it might not be so obvious. You might look at the menu items. This is Market Fresh Turkey and Swiss and think that this is the lighter calorie, lower fat option.

Actually, twice as many calories. And you can get a more simple version with the original Arby's roast beef sandwich. It doesn't have any sauces or mayonnaise or cheese. So it's a lower calorie option and a lower fat option.

You can still get your small fry, as compared to the large fry. And you can get a bottled water instead of drinking your calories in a large Coke.


GUPTA: Up next, test your conditioning. A fun and innovative way to keep an eye on your health and your fitness. Stay with us.


GUPTA: Welcome back to a very special edition of HOUSE CALL, reporting to you from Phoenix, Arizona.

New technology can make fitness fun. At least that's what video game makers want you to think, but can you really get fit and have fun with your kids all at the same time?


GUPTA (voice-over): Jogging, lifting weights, perfecting a yoga move, things you normally do in a gym, but thanks to Nintendo's new Wii platform, you're gym, your trainer, even your yoga mat are going electronic.

The Wii fit balance board has several sensors that monitor your every move and keep track of your center of balance, weight, and body mass index. You can do yoga, endurance, and strength training and fun challenges like a hula hooping contest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel like I'm exercising. So that's the good thing, you know.

GUPTA: Of course, Wii Fit isn't the first video game that aims to get kids, even some adults moving. There's Dance Dance Revolution, the Sony Eye Toy, and Wii's other fitness games like tennis and baseball.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is sort of weird.

GUPTA: But what do real live trainers think of their virtual competitors?

ROBERT DOTHARD, FITNESS EXPERT: I enjoyed it. You know, as a professional trainer, I'm always looking for ways to introduce fitness into people's lives. And since the Wii is such a popular game and it's in homes already, it's a great attachment to bring fitness into the home.

GUPTA: But even Nintendo trainers agree that video games should not replace workouts in the gym.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a tool in your fitness tool kit. This is just another thing to get you up and moving.

GUPTA: Robert's not concerned by the competition. In fact, he plans to buy the $90 video game to use in his own fitness studios.

DOTHARD: You know, it's something I would use for people that are maybe skittish. So I think it would be great in a public gym setting for people that don't want to make that total plunge.


GUPTA: Unfortunately, that's all the time we have for today. Now if you missed any part of the show, go ahead and check out my podcast at

Thanks for watching. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Stay tuned now for more news on CNN.