President Cleveland’s Oral Cancer

In 1890, at the start of his second term of office, President Grover Cleveland noticed a rough spot on his palate.A biopsy confirmed a diagnosis of cancer, and surgery was indicated.The Government wanted to keep the President’s health a secret because there was a financial crisis at the time, and they did not want the public to be alarmed.

So the surgery was done in secret while the President was aboard his friend’s yacht traveling up the East River in New York.The surgical team, including a dentist, was sworn to secrecy.Dr. Hasbrouck, a New York dentist, administered the anesthesia. Two teeth were extracted and part of the maxilla was removed.Dr Hasbrouck also constructed an appliance to close the defect caused by the surgery, and the President was able to make a planned address to Congress shortly thereafter.

The President lived for many more years without a recurrence of the oral cancer, and he died in 1908 of a heart attack.The government did not officially acknowledge Cleveland’s oral cancer until 1917.Dentists today, as in Cleveland’s day, play a crucial role in the diagnosis and treatment of oral cancer and post-surgical reconstruction.In my dental office I routinely check my patients for oral cancer.Early treatment of cancerous lesions saves countless lives each year.For more on oral cancer, visit my blog post on oral cancer.

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