Infections like the one California Senate candidate Carly Fiorina was hospitalized for Tuesday are not uncommon among breast cancer survivors who have had reconstructive surgery, according to the director of the Brandman Breast Center at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
The infections can develop even months after the surgery, said Dr. Edward Phillips, director of the Brandman center.
Fiorina, a breast cancer survivor who had reconstructive surgery this past July, was admitted to an undisclosed Los Angeles-area hospital Tuesday to receive antibiotics, Fiorina's chief of staff, Deborah Bowker, wrote in an e-mailed statement Tuesday.
Bowker said the former Hewlett-Packard Co. chief executive would take a temporary break from campaigning, just a week before Election Day, but that she "is upbeat and her doctors expect her to make a quick and full recovery."
Fiorina, 56, announced she had cancer in February 2009. She underwent a double mastectomy, along with a months-long regimen of chemotherapy and radiation. This summer, she had reconstructive surgery. Since her recovery, Fiorina has been an advocate for mammograms and breast self-exams.
"Carly is looking forward to getting back to her full campaign schedule and to defeating Barbara Boxer on November 2," Bowker said in the statement.
A new Public Policy Polling
survey released Tuesday found Fiorina trailing Boxer, the Democratic incumbent, by nine points, 52 to 43 percent. Previous polls have shown Boxer leading by fewer percentage points, often within the margin of error.
Her rival in the race wished Fiorina well.
"We wish Carly Fiorina a speedy recovery and hope she is able to return to her normal schedule soon," Boxer's campaign manager Rose Kapolczynski said Tuesday in e-mailed statement.
Infections even months after breast-reconstruction surgery are not uncommon because radiation treatment affects the blood supply, specifically the body's ability to send white blood cells to fight infecting agents, Dr. Phillips said.
"Bacteria can be pretty stubborn. They can slowly duplicate and come back. And the body has trouble fighting that infection on its own because the tissue has has been impacted by radiation," Phillips said. "The answer is usually antibiotics, administered intravenously."
Depending on the severity of the infection, Phillips said a patient like Fiorina could be back on her feet within a few days, though antibiotic treatments are likely to continue for a week or more.
Fiorina canceled two campaign stops in Southern California Tuesday. Her campaign didn't immediately say whether she would make appearances scheduled in the area Wednesday.
Even with the candidate sidelined, Fiorina's campaign kept on the offensive, launching a new Web ad
that attacks Boxer for accepting contributions from companies like Cisco that have laid off workers and sent jobs overseas. The 30-second spot accuses the senator of hypocrisy for taking money from those firms, while simultaneously criticizing the practice of outsourcing.
What impact Fiorina's sudden, if temporary, departure from the tight race will have on next Tuesday's vote remains to be seen.
Because most voters appear to have already made up their minds this election cycle, the political impact of Fiorina's hospitalization could be minimal, Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a political analyst at the University of Southern California, told the San Jose Mercury News
But, Bebitch Jeffe conceded, "It is not good news for any candidate to have to refocus their energy and resources on an issue that is not going to move them toward their ultimate goal, which is winning, particularly this close to the election."
Boxer made a brief campaign stop Tuesday in San Jose and was scheduled to appear alongside First Lady Michelle Obama at an event in Los Angeles. Last week President Barack Obama drew a crowd of thousands at a campaign rally for the senator at the University of Southern California.