HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, underwent successful surgery on Wednesday to remove her right kidney following her kidney cancer diagnosis, according to a message from the Senator's official Twitter account.
The stage IV cancer was found during a routine physical, and it has spread to one of her ribs.
Hirono, 69, said she's being treated by a kidney cancer specialist at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital. Her treatment plan includes surgery to remove her kidney followed by an outpatient procedure to eradicate the lesion on her rib.
"I face this fight with the same determination I've fought for the people of Hawaii. And I never quit, especially when things get tough," Hirono said. "I appreciate your support and good wishes, and look forward to getting back to the Senate to continue fighting for Hawaii as soon as possible."
Dr. Michael Atkins, deputy director of the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, who was overseeing Hirono's surgery, said about about 20 percent of patients with a kidney tumor are diagnosed after the cancer has already spread.
"We are fortunate that there are multiple, new systemic treatments that have been developed over the past decade for patients with advanced kidney cancer that are greatly improving the outlook for those patients," Atkins told Hawaii News Now.
According to the American Cancer Society, kidney cancer is among the 10 most common cancers in both men and women. Survival rates vary widely by the cancer's stage, and decline significantly when the cancer is more progressed.
In an email to her constituents Tuesday, Hirono confirmed that she is "without question" running for re-election in 2018.
"At the conclusion of this treatment, there will be no identifiable disease left untreated. My doctor expects I will make a full recovery from these treatments," Hirono said, in a news release. "I will continue working during my recovery, and look forward to returning to the Senate as soon as possible."
Political analysts say it's an important strategy in politics -- show no weakness.
"This is a very valuable Senate seat. There's a lot of other competitors waiting in the wings who would like to run for the Senate seat and an important thing when you're an incumbent is to discourage potential competitors," said Colin Moore, political analyst.
Hirono was first elected to Congress in 2006, after serving as Hawaii's lieutenant governor between 1994 and 2002.
Seven years later, Hirono became the first Asian-American woman to be elected to the United States Senate, after defeating Linda Lingle to fill the seat vacated by the retiring Daniel Akaka.
Hirono currently serves on the Senate's Judiciary Veterans' Affairs and Armed Services committees.