john mccain brain tumor diagnosis gupta dnt ac_00014000.jpg
PHOTO: Getty Images
john mccain brain tumor diagnosis gupta dnt ac_00014000.jpg
Now playing
01:59
Gupta speaks exclusively with McCain's doctors
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
01:08
Military flyover honors John McCain
Now playing
02:36
Obama makes guests laugh during McCain's eulogy
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
02:12
Meghan McCain: A few resented my father's fire
Now playing
01:58
Meghan McCain: My dad was defined by love
Now playing
01:32
Lieberman: McCain floated idea of me on ticket
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 1: Cindy McCain looks on as a joint military service casket team carries the casket of the late Senator John McCain following his funeral service at the Washington National Cathedral, September 1, 2018 in Washington, DC. Former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush delivered eulogies for McCain in front of the 2,500 invited guests. McCain will be buried on Sunday at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Drew Angerer/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 1: Cindy McCain looks on as a joint military service casket team carries the casket of the late Senator John McCain following his funeral service at the Washington National Cathedral, September 1, 2018 in Washington, DC. Former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush delivered eulogies for McCain in front of the 2,500 invited guests. McCain will be buried on Sunday at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Now playing
03:31
Friends and family pay final tribute to McCain
Now playing
00:55
Mike Pence's remarks make McCain family smile
mccain lie in state capitol steps rain cupp vpx_00011010.jpg
PHOTO: CNN
mccain lie in state capitol steps rain cupp vpx_00011010.jpg
Now playing
01:45
Rain suddenly falls as McCain's casket escorted into Capitol
PHOTO: Larson Family Photos
Now playing
00:59
McCain will be buried next to his 'wingman'
PHOTO: Carolyn Kaster/AP
Now playing
02:35
Former Presidents honor John McCain
john mccain ernest hemingway
PHOTO: CNN
john mccain ernest hemingway
Now playing
03:03
How McCain helped save Ernest Hemingway's home
PHOTO: CNNI
Now playing
01:26
John McCain's hearse leaves his home
PHOTO: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images
Now playing
01:12
Obama on McCain: We are all in his debt
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
02:10
Former staffer jokes about McCain's driving
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
00:58
McCain's former aide: He was an urgent man
Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. will brief the media on Tuesday, Aug. 28, at 10 a.m. EDT, in the Pentagon Briefing Room (2E973).  DAILY SCHEDULE: Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. brief the media at 10 a.m. EDT in the Pentagon Briefing Room (2E973). Both U.S. and foreign journalists without a Pentagon building pass must be pre-registered in the new Pentagon Visitor Management System to attend this briefing; plan on being escorted from the River Entrance Pedestrian Bridge or the Pentagon Metro Entrance Facility only. Please arrive no later than 45 minutes before the briefing; have proof of affiliation and photo identification. Please call 703-697-5131 for any questions and escort into the building. The briefing will also be streamed live on www.defense.gov/live.  Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis hosts an enhanced honor cordon welcoming Minister of Defense Ryamizard Ryacudu of Indonesia, to the Pentagon at 2:30 p.m. EDT on the steps of the River Entrance. All journalists desiring to cover the cordon must obtain a wristband from security screening. Journalists without a Pentagon facility access card must go through security screening at the base of the River Entrance Pedestrian Bridge, and will be escorted to the cordon from there. Security screening will begin at approximately 1:45 p.m. EDT; have proof of affiliation and two forms of photo identification. Journalists with a Pentagon facility access card, and whom have entered the building prior to 1:30 p.m. EDT, may go through security screening at the River Entrance to obtain their wristband. All journalists wishing to cover the honor cordon, including those with a Pentagon facility access card, must be in place no later than 2:15 p.m. EDT. Once security screening has been initiated at the base of the bridge, all journalists entering the building via the bridge for any reason, including those with a Pen
PHOTO: POOL
Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. will brief the media on Tuesday, Aug. 28, at 10 a.m. EDT, in the Pentagon Briefing Room (2E973). DAILY SCHEDULE: Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. brief the media at 10 a.m. EDT in the Pentagon Briefing Room (2E973). Both U.S. and foreign journalists without a Pentagon building pass must be pre-registered in the new Pentagon Visitor Management System to attend this briefing; plan on being escorted from the River Entrance Pedestrian Bridge or the Pentagon Metro Entrance Facility only. Please arrive no later than 45 minutes before the briefing; have proof of affiliation and photo identification. Please call 703-697-5131 for any questions and escort into the building. The briefing will also be streamed live on www.defense.gov/live. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis hosts an enhanced honor cordon welcoming Minister of Defense Ryamizard Ryacudu of Indonesia, to the Pentagon at 2:30 p.m. EDT on the steps of the River Entrance. All journalists desiring to cover the cordon must obtain a wristband from security screening. Journalists without a Pentagon facility access card must go through security screening at the base of the River Entrance Pedestrian Bridge, and will be escorted to the cordon from there. Security screening will begin at approximately 1:45 p.m. EDT; have proof of affiliation and two forms of photo identification. Journalists with a Pentagon facility access card, and whom have entered the building prior to 1:30 p.m. EDT, may go through security screening at the River Entrance to obtain their wristband. All journalists wishing to cover the honor cordon, including those with a Pentagon facility access card, must be in place no later than 2:15 p.m. EDT. Once security screening has been initiated at the base of the bridge, all journalists entering the building via the bridge for any reason, including those with a Pen
Now playing
00:58
Mattis on McCain: US has lost a great patriot
Now playing
03:16
Vietnamese pay tribute to Sen. John McCain
PHOTO: Getty Images
Now playing
02:14
Daughter, Trump react to McCain's death

Story highlights

Lab results from a surgery on Friday confirmed the presence of glioblastoma associated with the blood clot

Post-surgical brain scans show the tissue causing concern has been completely removed

(CNN) —  

Sen. John McCain, 80, has been diagnosed with a primary glioblastoma, a type of brain tumor, Mayo Clinic doctors directly involved in the senator’s care told CNN exclusively. The doctors spoke directly to CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

The senator underwent surgery to remove a blood clot on Friday at Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix. Lab results from that surgery confirmed the presence of brain cancer associated with the blood clot.

Glioblastoma is a particularly aggressive tumor that forms in the tissue of the brain and spinal cord, according to the American Brain Tumor Association.

A pathologist was in the operating room during the procedure, a minimally invasive craniotomy with an eyebrow incision, said his doctor, who added that the surgery lasted about three to four hours. Post-surgical brain scans show the tissue causing concern has been completely removed.

McCain is recovering “amazingly well,” according to a statement from his office.

The senator showed no neurological problems before or after the operation, said his doctors. Though not identified by name, at McCain’s request, his doctors were given permission to speak with Gupta, who is also a practicing neurosurgeon.

McCain is now recovering at his Arizona home. He and his family are considering treatment options, which will likely include radiation and chemotherapy, his doctors said.

“The news of my father’s illness has affected every one of us in the McCain Family,” tweeted Meghan McCain on Wednesday. “It won’t surprise you to learn that in all this, the one of us who is most confident and calm is my father.”

Routine exam

Doctors discovered the clot during a routine physical exam last week. They said he is very diligent about coming in for scheduled exams and is seen every four months for skin checks due to his history of skin cancer.

He arrived at his early morning appointment, Friday before 8 a.m. and as per usual, looked good, according to a doctor who has been involved in his care for nearly a decade. McCain, described as not being a complainer, did report feeling fatigued, which he attributed to a rigorous travel schedule.

He also told his doctor he had, at times, felt foggy and not as sharp as he typically is. In addition, he reported having intermittent double vision. These symptoms and doctor intuition prompted a CT scan.

When the results came back, McCain, who had already left the clinic, was asked to return for an MRI. Before the operation, his neurological exam was normal, according to his doctor.

The operation began in the late afternoon and the senator was recovering in the ICU by evening. His doctors told Gupta they were amazed at how sharp McCain was when he awoke. He knew what year it was and started cracking jokes. He also made it clear that he wanted to leave the hospital and get back to work, his doctors said.

Showing no signs of cognitive delays, McCain was discharged Saturday and has been recovering at his home since then.

His doctors would not reveal details but said his post operative care is standard.

’Aggressive tumor’

His doctor said McCain was oriented, with good balance and no headaches or seizures.

The clot was over the senator’s left eye, not far from the left temple where he was diagnosed with invasive melanoma in 2000. Previously, McCain had three other malignant melanomas removed in 1993, 2000 and 2002. None of these melanomas were invasive. All were declared Stage 0.

However, McCain has been regularly screened by his doctors since 2000.

Gupta was one of a select group of reporters who reviewed McCain’s medical records in 2008 when he was campaigning for president.

The surgical procedure McCain underwent is “a significant operation,” said Gupta, explaining that a bone underneath the eyebrow had to be removed to do the procedure and then later put back.

“It’s a very aggressive tumor,” said Gupta. He explained that average survival for malignant glioblastoma tends to be around 14 months with treatment. In McCain’s case, additional therapy, including radiation, could not begin until the incision heals, which would be in the next three or four weeks.

Still, one 2009 study reported that almost 10% of patients with glioblastoma may live five years or longer, according to the American Brain Tumor Association.

Join the conversation

  • See the latest news and share your comments with CNN Health on Facebook and Twitter.

“This is the same tumor that Ted Kennedy had,” said Gupta.

McCain’s diagnosis is the latest chapter in a storied life. Tortured as a Vietnam prisoner-of-war, the maverick politician fell short of the pinnacle of politics with two failed presidential runs. His absence from Washington in recent days has come at a politically inopportune time for a bill repealing and replacing Obamacare. This week, McCain broke ranks and called for discussions with Democrats and a full committee process to finally provide “Americans with access to quality and affordable health care.”

Clarification: Updates have been made to describe the kind of cancer McCain has had.
Debra Goldschmidt and Dan Berman contributed to this story.