Health and Medical History of President

Dwight Eisenhower: Wrong Diagnosis of Skin Lesion

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"melanoma"
In August or September 1944, Eisenhower had a superficial blackish nodule removed from his trunk because it was thought to be a malignant melanoma. Kay Summersby's book mentions an incident involving an "infected cyst," which was the cover story for the operation. The lesion proved to be a seborrheic keratosis, but Eisenhower appears never to have been told this. BELOW 1

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Here is the full story, as recalled by Dr. Donald Pillsbury, senior consultant in dermatology in the European theater during World War II.

In August or September 1944, Dr. Elliot Cutler noticed that Eisenhower, then Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe, had a superficial blackish nodule on his trunk, about 1 cm in diameter. Cutler, who was chief surgeon at one of the Harvard hospitals before the war, feared it was a melanoma. He excised it ("a liberal speciment of skin and fat"), put it in a bottle, and showed it to Pillsbury, who looked at it in some disbelief and immediately remarked: "But Elliott, this is an absolutely typical seborrheic keratosis, and I'll wager you 100 to 1 on it." Pillsbury describes Cutler's reaction as "slightly crestfallen, but undaunted."

Histologic examination of the specimen confirmed Pillsbury's diagnosis.

Some years later, when Eisenhower was president, he addressed a meeting of the Society of [civilian] Consultants to the Armed Forces. In his remarks he said he owed a debt to some consultants because they had probably saved his life by getting rid of a malignant growth on his skin. 1

Resources
Cited Resources
  1. Pillsbury, DM. General Eisenhower's "melanoma". Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 1981;4:631-632. Pubmed 7016937.
    Comment: Also in: Nero, F. Conversations with the President. Buffalo, NY: Westwood Pharmaceuticals, 1978, volume 1, pp. 13-14.
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