Sen. Thom Tillis says he'll have surgery for prostate cancer

BRYAN ANDERSON
·2-min read
FILE - This Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021 file photo shows Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., at the Capitol in Washington. On Monday, March 29, 2021, Tillis said he has prostate cancer and will undergo surgery next week in North Carolina to treat it. The Republican said he expects to make a full recovery, in part because the cancer was detected relatively early. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Sen. Thom Tillis said Monday that he has prostate cancer and will undergo surgery next week in North Carolina to treat it.

“I am in the hands of outstanding medical professionals and expect to make a full recovery,” the Republican said in a statement.

He said the cancer was detected relatively early.

“I can’t emphasize enough how important routine screenings are, regardless of how healthy you think you are,” he wrote. “I had no symptoms and would have never imagined I had cancer. My prognosis is good because I went to my annual physical and received a PSA test, which led to a biopsy and eventually my diagnosis. Early detection can truly save lives.”

Jeff Karnes, a Mayo Clinic professor in Rochester, Minnesota, and urologist who specializes in prostate cancer, is not treating Tillis but noted patients with similar diagnoses that are detected early typically spend a night in a hospital for what he considers a “fairly routine surgery." Patients he's treated have often returned to work within four to six weeks, with some performing desk work the week after their surgery.

Tillis, the 60-year-old Charlotte-area resident who is married with two grown children, is a former IBM consultant who joined the U.S. Senate after serving eight years in the North Carolina state House, the last four as House speaker.

His victory over Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan in 2014 helped the GOP take control of the Senate. He won reelection after narrowly defeating Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham in 2020 in what became the most expensive U.S. Senate race ever. Tillis serves on the armed services and judiciary committees and is a usually reliable vote for the Republican leadership.

Tillis’ GOP colleague in the chamber, Sen. Richard Burr, said in a statement that he is praying for Tillis and his wife, Susan.

“I’m confident Thom will tackle this latest challenge the way he approaches everything in life: with plenty of energy, good spirits, and the support of his friends and family,” Burr wrote.

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Associated Press writer Gary Robertson contributed to this report.

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Anderson is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.