SACRAMENTO -- In a sign that age may be catching up with California's ageless politician, Gov. Jerry Brown's office revealed Wednesday that he is being treated for early stage prostate cancer.
Dr. Eric Small of UC San Francisco, the 74-year-old governor's oncologist, said the prostate cancer is a "localized" case and that Brown is expected to make a full recovery after receiving "a short course of conventional radiotherapy."
"The prognosis is excellent, and there are not expected to be any significant side effects," Small said in a statement.
Brown's office said he is continuing a full work schedule during the treatment, which is expected to be completed the week of Jan. 7.
The governor's spokesman, Gil Duran, said Brown worked Wednesday and attended a lunch in San Jose for the Oakland Military Institute. And just last week, Brown was showing off his chin-up skills to Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson in the governor's office before the lighting of the Capitol Christmas tree, Duran added.
Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer, with more than 240,000 men diagnosed each year, according to the Prostate Cancer Foundation. About one in six men develop the disease, but far fewer -- about one in 33 -- die from it.
About 28,000 die of prostate cancer each year. More than 2 million men are living with the disease.
Cancer of the prostate is generally slow-growing and can be detected through routine tests. Radiation therapy (sometimes done by implanting radioactive seeds in the prostate) is usually for men with early stage prostate cancer who have health issues that do not allow for surgery, according to the National Cancer Institute. Typically, radiation therapy can last up to nine weeks.
Duran would not disclose further details or say how long the governor has been undergoing the treatment. But a "short course" in radiation therapy is not typical and could mean he's taking more concentrated doses, said Dr. Brian Hopkins, a urologist with a specialty in prostate cancer at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek and Concord.
"Sometimes the best course of action is radiation, especially if he's got more than a 10-year life expectancy," Hopkins said. "My impression is he probably feels he has great life expectancy, and he doesn't want to take any risks. And he doesn't want to do anything that takes away from his job managing California government. Radiation treatment will allow him to do that. "
There are two other main treatment options for prostate cancer patients, according to the National Cancer Institute: active surveillance, sometimes dubbed "watchful waiting," and surgery.
The NCI suggests active surveillance for low-risk patients who have a smaller or slow-growing type of prostate cancer in the prostate only and are older than 70.
Surgery, traditional radiotherapy or radioactive-seed therapy is generally recommended for those younger than 70 who are in good health and want the cancer removed.
Brown's public image is one of boundless energy, whether on the campaign trail or in hourlong verbal jousts with the media.
The governor has been known to outdo people half his age with chin-ups.
He runs three miles daily and made national headlines by challenging New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to a physical fitness competition after the corpulent Christie attacked him as an "old retread" at the GOP National Convention.
"He proved he once again had the vim and vigor and judgment" in his campaign for Proposition 30, the tax measure approved by voters in November, said Barbara O'Connor, director emeritus of the Institute for the Study of Politics and the Media at Sacramento State.
But prospective gubernatorial candidates will be watching Brown's medical condition closely, predicted O'Connor, who served in one of Brown's previous administrations.
"Is it a barrier to his running for re-election? It needn't be," O'Connor said. "I don't view it as disqualifying, but it certainly makes others think about running. He is 74, and he's certainly more acute and savvy and energetic than most his age, but he is what he is. You slow down, and illness puts a kink in your ability to marshal the energy to do what you need to do. But I don't ever count Jerry out. He's determined to get stuff done."
Other prominent political figures to undergo prostate cancer treatment include U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.; former U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn.; former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani; and former U.S. Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kansas, all of whom survived. California political giants felled by prostate cancer include former Assembly Speaker Jesse Unruh, who died at 64, and ex-San Francisco Mayor Joseph Alioto, who died at 82.
Brown had a cancerous growth removed from his nose in an April 2011 procedure that required reconstructive surgery. Doctors removed basal cell carcinoma, a common, slow-growing form of skin cancer, from the right side of his nose.