LAS VEGAS – U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei of Nevada had three surgeries and an outpatient procedure over the past 10 months for cancerous tumors on his kidneys and a cancerous spot in his esophagus, the Republican congressman disclosed Friday.
Amodei told The Associated Press that he did not reveal the cancer when he first learned of it last September or his surgery before the November election because he didn't want it to be used against him in his reelection campaign.
The 63-year-old Republican said if someone had asked him about it at the time, he would have truthfully answered about his condition and said of his hospital stays, "I didn’t check in under aliases or anything else.”
But, he said, "there’s no way I’m going to go out and volunteer it in an election cycle."
Amodei, who has represented Reno and northern Nevada in the House since 2011, said he didn’t want it to become a campaign issue. He cited one of his past reelection campaigns where his opponent criticized him for missing votes that Amodei said were largely due to a retina surgery and his mother’s death.
When asked if voters deserved to have that information about his diagnosis and treatment before the election, Amodei said it was “not a major surgery because it was one night in, one night out," he was back at work two days later and the surgery was successful.
He also said he suspected that had he disclosed the cancer before the election, he would be accused of using it to his advantage.
“You’re damned if you do or damned if you don’t," he said. “In the culture of today, there would be those people saying you’d try to get the sympathy vote."
The congressman first revealed some details of his cancer diagnosis in an interview with the Nevada Independent published Friday.
Fred Lokken, a political science professor at the Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, said there’s no standard about if or when to disclose such procedures and it's up to voters to decide if it matters.
“Different voters have different values systems. I think most voters would probably prefer knowing,” he said.
Loyola Law School Professor Jessica A. Levinson, whose work includes a focus on politics and ethics, said it's a gray area and unlike a House member's financial interests, there is not an expectation that medical information be disclosed.
“It strikes me that medical information is very different in that we’re not wondering if he’s going to vote for or against a tax bill because of his medical diagnosis whereas we might have that concern when it comes to financial conflicts," she said.
Amodei said a tumor was found on his left kidney and another inside his right kidney in September. He said he underwent surgery and a one-night stay in a Washington hospital in September for the left kidney. He said he had a two-night hospital stay in June for a minimally invasive surgery to remove the tumor on his right kidney.
Amodei said both surgeries completely removed the cancer on his kidneys and he did not require any chemotherapy or radiation treatment. But he said after the second surgery he had some bleeding problems and needed a third surgery, which he said took care of it.
Additionally, Amodei said that a Reno doctor found a cancerous spot in his esophagus. Amodei said he has Barrett's esophagus, a condition caused by acid reflux that changes the lining of the esophagus and can put people at risk for cancer.
Amodei said the spot on his esophagus was caught very early and an outpatient procedure cut the cancerous spot out.
The congressman said he will need regular checkups to make sure things are going well but said despite some fatigue he feels mostly back to normal.
“I’m a very lucky guy. I’m grateful that if this is my cancer stuff, thank you, Jesus," he said.
Amodei said he plans to make a decision in October about whether he will run for reelection next year or run for Nevada governor.