WASHINGTON – When President Bush showed up before the cameras Monday with two red marks on either side of his face, he didn't realize that such an issue would have been made of a topical surgical procedure performed every day in America.
But he wishes he had.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Tuesday that the president is sorry that the press wasn't notified until three days after the procedure to remove four lesions -- two pre-cancerous, two cosmetic -- from his cheeks, temple and forehead.
"I do think it's fair to say that the president thinks this could have been done sooner rather than when it went out yesterday afternoon," he said.
Fleischer disclosed the procedure Monday after reporters noticed marks on Bush's face while he hosted Muslim children at the White House for an end of Ramadan celebration.
The lesions were treated with liquid nitrogen at the White House on Friday. The growths on the president's cheeks were the same kind of lesions he had treated after his yearly physical on August 4th. At that physical, Mr. Bush had 3 lesions removed.
Fleischer said the White House had not changed its policy of informing the public as soon as a medical procedure is conducted on the president.
"As soon as I saw the president (Monday), I talked to the president, the president agreed to put out a statement, I put out a statement," Fleischer told reporters. "So it wasn't as if you were told because you saw it; you were told because I saw it. And that is why press received the notification it received yesterday."
The two lesions on the president's cheeks were actinic keratoses, the lesions on his face sebhorreic keratoses. The former can become cancerous. The latter generally do not.
When asked about the lesions Monday, Fleischer said they were not out of the ordinary.
Actinic keratoses are a common ailment in people Bush's age that can develop into cancer. Seborrheic keratoses are also common as people age, but unlike other skin growths, this type of keratosis is unlikely ever to turn into cancer. Thus, they typically aren't removed unless they become irritated or for cosmetic reasons.
"For a man his age, when you're out in the sun a lot as a young man, I'm told this is extremely common," the spokesman said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.