LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor reached into his own medical history Tuesday to explain his vote on the nation's new health care law, telling Arkansans his battle with a rare cancer 18 years ago influenced him.
The two-term Democrat, who is in a tough re-election battle, fought a clear-cell sarcoma discovered after a pickup basketball game. He had five weeks of chemotherapy and a 13-hour surgery that his campaign called experimental.
"It makes the argument that much clearer when Sen. Pryor tells his personal story of his battle with his cancer, where he could have easily lost his life," Pryor campaign spokesman Erik Dorey said.
Pryor, then 33, was having surgery to repair what was believed to be a basketball injury when doctors found the cancer, which has a high mortality rate.
In a 30-second advertisement, Pryor says the experience helped him back a law that prevents insurers from canceling policies if someone gets sick or denying coverage for pre-existing conditions. He does not mention the Affordable Care Act by name.
"No one should be fighting an insurance company while you're fighting for your life," Pryor says in the ad, which is running statewide as part of a six-figure buy.
The campaign of his Republican challenger, Rep. Tom Cotton, said it was thankful that Pryor survived his cancer scare and admired his courage.
"We all agree that nobody should be denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition," Cotton spokesman David Ray wrote in an email.
He said "Obamacare" harms the middle class and small businesses and has caused millions to lose existing insurance coverage after being told they could keep it.
"Further, Sen. Pryor has supported a taxpayer-funded bailout of big insurance companies that lose money as a result of 'Obamacare,'" Ray wrote. "We need to start over with reform that makes health care more affordable and keeps health care decisions between patients and doctors."
The National Institutes of Health, citing small 1992 and 1999 studies, put the five-year survival rate for clear-cell sarcoma at 54 percent. It said the cancer is found primarily in the extremities of young adults.