HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd said Friday that he has been diagnosed with an early stage of prostate cancer and will have surgery in early August, but the prognosis is good and the illness will not affect his plans to seek a sixth term next year.
Dodd said the cancer was detected in June during his annual physical and the results were confirmed by a biopsy. He said he plans to have surgery at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York shortly after Congress adjourns next week and is "very confident we're going to come out of this well."
"I'm running for re-election," he told reporters at his Hartford office. "I'll be a little leaner, a little meaner, but I'm running."
The 65-year-old Democrat is chairman of the Senate Banking Committee and is playing a lead role in Congress' attempt to overhaul the nation's health care system. He took that role while his close friend, Senate health committee Chairman Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts fights his own battle with brain cancer.
Prostate cancer is the most common form of the disease in men in the United States, affecting about 6.4 out of every 100 men in Dodd's age group, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"I feel fine," Dodd said. "This is very common. If you've got to have cancer, I'm told my some doctors, this is the slowest going, most manageable form to have."
Dodd also used the diagnosis to make a pitch for overhauling the nation's health care system.
"For a person who loses health care coverage, that physical may not be something that you can afford," he said. "I'm fortunate as a member of Congress to have those benefits."
In Washington, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said he didn't know if President Barack Obama had called Dodd upon learning about the cancer, but said he was likely to call later Friday.
Dodd is facing what's expected to be a tough re-election campaign. A poll last week showed him trailing former Republican U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, 48 percent to 39 percent, and 52 percent of respondents disapproved of Dodd's job performance.
The Senate ethics committee is looking into whether Dodd violated standards of conduct when he received mortgage discounts from the VIP program at Countrywide Financial Corp.
Dodd, whose committee oversees the banking and financial industries, insists he did not receive special deals. He produced a report showing other lenders would have offered the same rates and said he thought the VIP program simply meant enhanced customer service and the ability to get a live person on the phone.
Dodd also was caught up in the furor earlier this year over $165 million in bonuses American International Group Inc. paid some of its employees in 2009 while receiving billions of dollars in federal bailout money.
After first denying it, Dodd admitted he agreed to a request by Treasury Department officials to dilute an executive bonus restriction in the big economic stimulus bill that Congress passed in February. The change to Dodd's amendment allowed AIG to hand out the bonuses and sparked a blame game between Dodd and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.
Dodd is the son of former Democratic Sen. Thomas J. Dodd. He was elected to the U.S. House in 1974 and was re-elected in 1976 and 1978, and was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1980.
He ran unsuccessfully for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, dropping out after failing to gain support in the Iowa caucuses.
He is married to the former Jackie Clegg. They have two young daughters.
Associated Press reporter Laurie Kellman in Washington contributed to this report.