BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana's first and only female governor, Kathleen Blanco, is in hospice care for an incurable cancer.
She is 76-years-old and served as governor from 2004 to 2008. She has a form of eye cancer that returned and spread to her liver in 2017.
Melanoma is the deadliest type of skin cancer, but it can show up anywhere on your body, even the parts of your body that are never exposed to the sun.
Former Governor Kathleen Blanco was diagnosed with melanoma of the eye in 2011. Eye cancers are extremely rare, but melanoma is the most common type of ocular cancer.
To find out more we turned to Dr. Marc Matrana, Director of the Ochsner Precision Cancer Therapies Program. He has not treated Mrs. Blanco. He says this cancer is seen more often in people with fair skin and light eyes.
It is unclear if it is related to sun exposure. If you have relatives who have had melanoma, your risk of getting it goes up. You might notice a change in your vision, some pain, or discoloration of your iris, but usually a doctor picks it up on an eye exam.
Dr. Matrana says it's always good to wear sunscreen, hats and dark glasses in the sun and to have regular check ups with your dermatologist, ophthalmologist and even your gynecologist or urologist for changes anywhere on your body.
In the early stages, it can be treated with surgery to remove the tumor or your eye. Radiation is also used and can cause loss of vision. In advanced cases, there's chemotherapy, immunotherapy or targeted therapy if it's spread. It usually spreads to the liver, as is reported to have done in Governor Blanco's case.
The doctor says once this type of cancer has spread, it is untreatable and terminal, but if caught early, it can be treated although you would have to be watched for it coming back.