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Maureen Reagan`s Cancer Spreads to Her Brain (PR Newswire)Maureen Reagan, the daughter of former President Ronald Reagan and actress Jane Wyman, has been re-hospitalized at Mercy San Juan Hospital in Carmichael, California, and is undergoing whole brain radiation for malignant melanoma that has spread to her brain.- Jul 13 6:00 AM ET


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Posted on: 07/13/2001

"Yahoo - Maureen Reagan's Cancer Spreads to Her Brain"
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Friday July 13, 6:00 am Eastern Time

Press Release

SOURCE: Revell Communications

Maureen Reagan's Cancer Spreads to Her Brain

Former President's Daughter Re-Hospitalized in Brave Fight for Her Life

SACRAMENTO, Calif., July 13 /PRNewswire/ -- Maureen Reagan, the daughter of former President Ronald Reagan and actress Jane Wyman, has been re-hospitalized at Mercy San Juan Hospital in Carmichael, California, and is undergoing whole brain radiation for malignant melanoma that has spread to her brain.

Doctors discovered what appeared to be a sizeable lesion in initial tests conducted last Thursday, following periodic spasms and mild seizures that Ms. Reagan experienced over the 4th of July holiday. On Friday, an extensive brain MRI was performed under general anesthesia that confirmed there is a 3 cm lesion in the right occipital region of her brain and a 5 mm lesion in the left peritrigonal region of her brain. That evening, Ms. Reagan began a regimen of whole brain radiation that consists of 10 treatments, over a 2 week period, along with the administration of steroids, anticonvulsants and diuretics to reduce the intracranial pressure associated with cerebral edema and to stop further seizures.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, melanoma is the fastest growing cancer in the United States. About 8,000 people in this country die from it every year, and almost 40,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. In 1935, the lifetime chance of developing melanoma was one in 1,500. It is now one in 75. Despite this rapid growth in the disease, in 1996 a national survey found that at least 50 percent of Americans didn't know what melanoma was, or how deadly it can be. While there are other types of skin cancer -- basal-cell and squamous-cell -- melanoma is the most deadly type of skin cancer. While it may occur as a new mole or develop in an existing mole, it is the only skin cancer capable of spreading via the bloodstream to internal organs such as the lung, liver, kidney, bone and/or brain. When melanoma spreads to secondary locations in the body, it is referred to as "metastatic melanoma." While incidence rates of the disease have risen, because of newly-evolved, aggressive treatments, the five-year survival rate of most melanoma patients has improved. However, the five-year survival rate for melanoma that has widely metastasized is less than 20 percent. If successfully diagnosed early, melanoma is treatable.

"Like many cancer patients, Maureen prefers not to dwell on the statistical survival rates, preferring to recognize that each person's case is quite different and unique. She believes that there are many factors that help a person survive, from the power of one's faith and prayers, to support of family and friends, to the quality of one's medical care, to maintaining a positive attitude," said her husband, Dennis Revell, who has remained with his wife throughout her treatment, including sleeping at her bedside.

Helping bolster her spirits have been many calls and visits from her mom, Jane Wyman, Mrs. Nancy Reagan, and close friends. "Jane, Nancy and so many of our friends have been wonderfully supportive, loving and encouraging," stated Revell.

"I am heartsick over Maureen and only wish there was something we could do for her," said Nancy Reagan. "I saw her a little over a week ago and told her that her dad and I love her and we're praying for her everyday. She, Dennis and Rita are constantly on my mind."

Nearly 4 months ago, President Reagan's eldest daughter seemingly was winning her battle against this most deadly form of skin cancer. On March 23, 2001, Ms. Reagan was released from The John Wayne Cancer Institute at St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California, after having undergone a 3 1/2-month long, highly-aggressive, biochemotherapy treatment. All indications at the time showed that not only had she not experienced any further progression, but had experienced regression of the disease in several locations throughout her body. In addition, doctors reported that she showed evidence of recalcification and bone regeneration at tumor sites in her pelvic region. As a result, both Ms. Reagan and her doctors opted to start her early on a biotherapy maintenance program during which she would receive self-administered doses of medications at home followed by a hospitalization for high doses of the same medication every 28 days.

It was initially anticipated that this phase of Reagan's treatment would consist of thirteen, 28-day cycles of this biotherapy. However, tests performed in late May, after she completed her second cycle, showed that she had experienced progression of the disease in several locations. X-rays, CT, MRI and bone scans revealed lesions in the upper humerus and radius bones of the right arm, the soft tissue of the right groin, two or three locations in the liver and a small spot on the right ribs. After consulting with her team of physicians and other national melanoma experts, it was decided Reagan should embark upon an aggressive program of radiation to many of these new sites as well as weekly infusions of a chemo drug called Taxol, concurrent with nightly administrations of the controversial drug, Thalidomide.

However, in the course of her oncological radiation, she began to show signs of additional progression of the disease in the humerus of the left arm, mandible of the left jaw, right wrist and three spots on the femur of the left leg. It was decided to radiate those sites as well and, upon completion of radiation, Reagan returned to The John Wayne Cancer Institute for resumption of the biochemotherapy. She appeared to tolerate the therapy very well and returned to Sacramento on Saturday, June 30. Over the 4th of July holiday, she began to experience mild, periodic spasms in her left foot and leg. Initially, it was presumed that this was a reaction to one or more of her medications, so several of them were put on hold. The following morning, she underwent CT and MRI scans to determine if there had been any brain metastasis. Those tests confirmed that in 2 to 3 months, lesions had developed on both sides of Reagan's brain.

Maureen was originally diagnosed with malignant melanoma in December of 1996, when a large, pigmented, ulcerated, mole-like growth appeared on the back of her mid-right thigh. After 2 surgeries to remove the melanoma and some lymph nodes, she underwent 14 months of intravenous infusions and self-administered injections of Interferon, a naturally-occurring protein normally produced by the body that helps protect the healthy cells from viral infections and some forms of cancer.

It appeared that the disease was in remission, but during an October 2000 emergency aneurysm surgery in Chicago, it was discovered that the disease had invaded several lymph nodes in her right groin and thigh. She underwent a complete lymph node groin dissection, removing all the lymph nodes between her right knee and groin. Lymph nodes are small, bean like organs that help drain fluid from the body and store special cells that trap bacteria and cancer cells traveling in the body.

On November 19, 2000, Reagan was admitted to Mercy San Juan Hospital in Carmichael, California to have a surgical procedure on her colon, it was discovered that a new metastatic malignant melanoma tumor had grown in her right pubic bone in less than 5 weeks. On the advice of her treating physicians and some of the nation's other leading surgical oncologists and researchers in the area of metastatic melanoma, Ms. Reagan was taken by air ambulance to The John Wayne Cancer Institute in Santa Monica, California, where on December 16 she began her first biochemotherapy treatments.

In April of 1998, after completing her 14 month struggle on interferon therapy, Ms. Reagan went public with her fight with malignant melanoma in numerous national and regional interviews. In the spring of 1998 she received the President's Gold Triangle Award from the American Academy of Dermatology for her work in raising awareness of melanoma and promoting the importance of skin examinations.

Ms. Reagan is a leading spokesperson for the Alzheimer's Association and has been on the association's national board of directors since 1999. She has served as national honorary chair of the association's major fundraising event, Memory Walk, since 1997. She has testified several times before Congress to advocate for increased funding for Alzheimer's research and caregiver support and has traveled extensively across the country to help local chapters with Memory Walks, fundraising, advocacy, public education, caregiver support activities and media events. Last October, the association presented her with its Distinguished Service Award.

The Alzheimer's Association responded to the latest news on Maureen's health with a formal statement from Ms. Orien Reid, Chair of its National Board of Directors. In this emotionally packed statement, Ms. Reid stated:

"Our prayers are with Maureen; her husband, Dennis; and their daughter, Rita, at this very difficult time.

We are grateful to Maureen for her passion and commitment to fighting Alzheimer's disease. She has given so much of herself in advocating for more funding for Alzheimer's research and caregiver support and helping local Alzheimer Association chapters across the country.

Despite her declining health, Maureen had been planning to be part of a major fundraiser for the Association at which she would be honored, with the proceeds going to Alzheimer's research.

Maureen truly has made a difference and is an inspiration to all of us at the Alzheimer's Association and to the millions of families who face Alzheimer's."

Ms. Reagan also serves as a trustee for her father's alma mater, Eureka College in Illinois, and is actively involved with and supports the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation. During her distinguished public service career she has held numerous leadership positions, including co-chair of the Republican National Committee and U.S. Representative to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

Get well wishes may be sent to Maureen Reagan, care of the Alzheimer's Association, 919 North Michigan Ave., Suite 1100, Chicago, IL 60611-1676 or e-mailed through the Association's web site at www.alz.org/media/news/mreagan.htm .

SOURCE: Revell Communications

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