President Reagan had a piece of skin surgically removed from the right side of his nose Tuesday after complaining of irritation from the adhesive tape used to hold a tube in his nose during recent cancer surgery, White House spokesman Larry Speakes said yesterday.
The piece of skin "was submitted for routine studies for infection and it was determined no further treatment is necessary," a White House statement said. Speakes had earlier told reporters that a biopsy, to check for cancer, would be "routinely" performed on the piece of skin. He would not explain the apparent discrepancy between that statement and the later announcement that doctors were checking only for infection.
Reporters noticed what appeared to be a scratch on the president's nose when he stepped before television cameras for a brief speech to religious broadcasters in the White House East Room. It was his first such appearance since the surgery July 13.
In response to questions, Speakes said Reagan was suffering from a skin irritation, "or a gathering of the skin, a piling up of the skin," even before his surgery for intestinal cancer.
During surgery, a naso-gastric tube was inserted up the president's nose and into his stomach to remove gases and fluids. The tape used to hold the tube in place during and after the operation apparently irritated the skin. Speakes said the president has an allergic reaction to tape, although a tape that does not cause irritation was used, "but I guess the tape on and off for five days did cause an irritation."
The surgical procedure was done by a local dermatologist Tuesday in a physician's office at the White House, he said. No anesthetic was used and Reagan felt no pain, Speakes added. He refused to identify the dermatologist, saying he did not want the doctor to be "troubled" by reporters.
He said Reagan requested the procedure after talking with White House physician T. Burton Smith.
The White House did not announce the procedure at the time. Reporters at an Oval Office photo session Wednesday noted that Reagan kept his back to them.