After days of speculation, the White House confirmed that first lady Jill Biden had undergone successful surgery to remove two potentially cancerous lesions.
Surgeons removed a lesion above first lady Jill Biden’s right eye and one on her chest, the White House said last Wednesday, while a third lesion on her left eyelid was being examined.
Dr. Kevin O’Connor, the physician to President Joe Biden, said examinations showed that the lesion over Jill Biden’s right eye and one newly discovered on her chest were both confirmed to be basal cell carcinoma. The lesion on her left eyelid was “fully excised, with margins, and was sent for standard microscopic examination,” according to O’Connor’s report.
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer, but also the most curable form. It’s considered highly treatable, especially when caught early. It is a slow-growing cancer that usually is confined to the surface of skin — doctors almost always can remove it all with a shallow incision — and seldom causes serious complications or becomes life-threatening.
The Bidens spent the day at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, where the 71-year-old first lady underwent a common outpatient procedure known as Mohs surgery to remove and examine the lesions. After nearly nine hours at the hospital, the president returned to the White House solo.
Jill Biden’s press secretary said the first lady returned to the White House Wednesday evening, and was “doing well and in good spirits.”
O’Connor said she experienced “some facial swelling and bruising.”
Basal cell carcinoma is so common there aren’t good counts. The American Cancer Society lumps them in with another easily treated type called squamous cell cancers. About 3.3 million Americans get one of those two types each year and the vast majority are basal cell, according to the organization.
The first lady’s office announced a week ago, through a Jan. 4 memo from O’Connor, that doctors had discovered the lesion above her right eye during a recent routine skin cancer screening. The lesions removed from her chest and left eyelid were discovered on Wednesday.
The Mohs surgery involves cutting away thin layers of skin and examining each layer for signs of cancer. Doctors keep removing and examining layers of skin until there are no signs of cancer.
Doctors recommended removing the lesion from above Jill Biden’s right eye “in an abundance of caution,” O’Connor wrote in the memo.
The Skin Cancer Foundation said the delicate skin around the eyes is especially vulnerable to damage from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Sun exposure is the main risk for basal cell carcinoma.
Jill Biden had the procedure the morning after she and the president returned from Mexico City, where he held two days of talks with the leaders of Mexico and Canada, and she kept a separate schedule of meetings with women, children and her counterparts from both countries.
Biden accompanied the first lady to the hospital, as he has done for some of her past medical appointments since he became president.
“Today is about his wife, that is the focus for the president right now,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said when asked about Biden’s activities at the hospital while doctors cared for the first lady. “This is about the president supporting his wife of 45 years.”
Biden accompanied his wife to an outpatient center near the campus of George Washington University in April 2021 for a medical procedure the White House described only as “common.”
He also went with her to Walter Reed in July 2021 for outpatient treatment after she punctured her left foot while walking on a beach in Hawaii. She had stopped there on her way back to Washington from the Tokyo Olympics.
The Horn editorial team and the Associated Press contributed to this article.