The Washington Senators and Minnesota Twins great, Harmon Killebrew, just announced that he is battling esophageal cancer and is being treated at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. In his statement, he said, ”With my wife, Nita, by my side, I have begun preparing for what is perhaps the most difficult battle of my life. I am being treated by a team of medical professionals at the Mayo Clinic. While my condition is very serious, I have confidence in my doctors and the medical staff, and I anticipate a full recovery.”
In my Greatest MLB First Baseman rankings, I had Harmon ranked #4 All-Time and Overall All-Time, I had him ranked as the 39th greatest positional player. “Hammerin Harmon” was a true power hitter and is arguably the best Twins/Senators player in history (along with Walter Johnson). He hit the most HRs in the 1960s and most of them were “tape measure” shots.
This is another bit of sad news for a league that this year has already lost some truly historic people such as Bob Feller, Bob Sheppard and George Steinbrenner among others. What exactly is esophogeal cancer and what are Harmon’s chances? Well, according to the Mayo Clinic’s website: Esophageal cancer is cancer that occurs in the esophagus — a long hollow tube that runs from your throat to your stomach. Your esophagus carries food you swallow to your stomach to be digested. Esophageal cancer usually begins in the cells that line the inside of the esophagus. Esophageal cancer can occur anywhere along the esophagus, but in people in the United States, it occurs most often in the lower portion of the esophagus. Esophageal cancer isn’t common in the United States. In other areas of the world, such as Asia and parts of Africa, esophageal cancer is much more common.
As far as success rates, it all depends on how early they’ve caught the cancer (what stage it’s in):
|Stages of Esophageal Cancer||Characteristics||Relative 5 Year Survival Rate (%)|
|O||Cancerous cells are confined to the inner most layer or epithelium.||70|
|I||Cancerous cells invasion goes beyond the epithelium to the submucosa.||60|
|II A||The cells spread further, invading the muscle layer of the esophagus, and most probably even the adventitia.||40|
|II B||The cells spread beyond the epithelium, but haven’t invaded the adventitia as yet.||20|
|III||The cells have invaded the adventitia and spread further to nearby lymph nodes or even to the nearby organs.||15|
|IV A||The cells have spread to distant lymph nodes.||15|
|IV B||Cancerous cells have spread to distant lymph nodes and/or other organs.||Below 5|
Here’s hoping his doctors have caught it in an early stage (all they’ve said was, it’s “serious”, but all cancer is serious). The earlier you can find the cancer, the better your odds are. I believe Harmon will knock this cancer out like he used to knock balls out of the ballpark. Here’s to a quick and successful recovery for Mr. Killebrew!