Presidential Health: Secrets, Surprises, and Controversies

Albert B. Lowenfels, MD


August 14, 2017

Catch-and-Release Cancer

Figure 4. Grover Cleveland. Image from iStock.

Disclosing details of a president's health has always been a delicate, contentious issue, and this was certainly true in 1893 when Grover Cleveland discovered a lump on his hard palate which proved to be cancerous.[10] At that time, cancer was a dreaded diagnosis, and Cleveland feared that public disclosure would unsettle the already precarious financial markets. Instead, he made it known that he would take a 4-day fishing trip. In reality, this ruse hid a scheme to have the tumor removed surreptitiously. Under general anesthesia, a team of several physicians and dentists removed the tumor, several teeth, and part of his upper jaw. Cleveland made an uneventful recovery from this potentially risky procedure carried out aboard a ship under less-than-ideal conditions. The resulting defect was covered with a fitted prosthesis which enabled him to speak clearly. At the time, the public never knew that he had undergone a serious operation.


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