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After shocking collapse, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton announces he has prostate cancer

Minn. Gov. Mark Dayton, who collapsed while delivering his State of the State address, announced he has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. (Video: Reuters)
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Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said Tuesday that he has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, following a fainting spell the night before during his State of the State address.

The governor fainted Monday night, slurring his words and then striking his head on a lectern as he fell to the floor.

His staffers caught him, and legislators immediately adjourned the meeting at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul.

The governor’s chief of staff said in a statement that “he quickly recovered, walked out of the Capitol, and returned home,” where he was checked out by emergency personnel.

Dayton said he would see doctors Tuesday afternoon at the Mayo Clinic as a precaution.

During Tuesday’s afternoon news conference, Dayton (D), 69, said he had planned to disclose information about the cancer next week after further tests and visits with his doctor to determine the best course of treatment. But, he said, following his sudden fainting spell, he decided to go ahead with the public announcement.

Dayton added that his treatment could include radiation or surgery to remove a tumor.

“I don’t expect it to impede my performance or responsibilities,” he told reporters, “but I’ll know more next week.”

Aside from skin cancer, prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in men in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health. Earlier data from NIH estimated that more than 180,000 men would be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2016, and more than 26,000 would die from it.

In its early stages, prostate cancer may not need treatment, according to the Mayo Clinic. But when treatment becomes necessary, doctors may consider hormone or other therapies, radiology, chemotherapy or surgery to remove the prostate gland, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The governor said his tumor was discovered during an annual examination and a biopsy confirmed it was cancer late last week, but there is no evidence to suggest that it has spread beyond the prostate.

“It’s grim, but it is what it is,” Dayton said of the diagnosis, adding: “You have to do what you have to do in life.”

This isn’t the first time Dayton has struggled with his health, according to the Star Tribune. He had a similar fainting spell about the same time last year at a political event; his senior adviser said he was hospitalized and treated for dehydration, according to the Tribune.

He has also had trouble with his back, undergoing two surgeries in recent years to help treat spinal stenosis.

On Monday, during the State of the State address, Dayton had appeared to stumble as he made his way into the house chamber, according to the Associated Press.

He later said he was sweating a bit but was not aware of any issues.

“It just came up on me before I could do anything about it,” he told reporters during Tuesday’s news conference.

About 40 minutes into his address, the governor started to tremble and lost his place in his speech, according to the AP. He took several sips of water before he fell to the floor.

Not long after the fall, however, the governor had reportedly bounced back and was making fun of himself, state Sen. Dan Schoen said, the AP reported. Dayton’s son, Eric Dayton, said in a tweet that his father was “doing great.” He later tweeted a photo of his father and Dayton’s grandson, Hugo, making an “advanced puzzle” together, adding, “that must be a good sign!”

“Governor Dayton and his entire staff thank the people of Minnesota for their outpouring of support and concern,” the statement read.

On Tuesday, the governor seemed in high spirits, saying he was grateful for the outpouring of support he had received, then he started poking fun at the situation.

“If I’d known that it was going to result in the Republicans not criticizing my speech,” he said, “I’d have tried it years ago.”

Before fainting Monday night, Dayton unveiled a broad vision for his final two years in office, calling for targeted “public investments” that include $371 million in additional funding for schools and the creation of a public health insurance option, the Star Tribune reported. He touted a falling unemployment rate and a projected budget surplus of $1.4 billion, a substantial improvement from the massive budget deficit facing the state six years ago.

He also discussed the need to address a number of problems in the state, including aging roads and bridges, diminished water quality and racial disparities. Dayton faces pressures from the now-Republican-controlled legislature to make broad health-care changes and offset massive premium hikes.

This post has been updated.

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