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Potential 2020 candidate Sen. Michael Bennet says he has prostate cancer

Sen. Michael Bennet has been diagnosed with prostate cancer.

WASHINGTON (AP) - Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado says he has been diagnosed with prostate cancer as he considers a 2020 Democratic presidential bid.

The 54-year-old senator first told the Colorado Independent Wednesday that he had intended to announce his presidential bid in April and decided to get a physical beforehand. He says he plans to have surgery to remove his prostate gland after the congressional spring recess, which begins next week.

In a statement, Bennet wrote:

“Late last month, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. While hearing news like this is never easy, I am fortunate it was detected early, and as a result, my prognosis is good. During the upcoming Senate recess, I will have surgery in Colorado and return to work following a brief recovery."

He told Colorado Independent he still intends to run for president if he's cancer-free after surgery.

“The work we have in front of us to restore a politics that is worthy of our kids and grandkids has never been more important. This unanticipated hurdle only reinforces how strongly I feel about contributing to the larger conversation about the future of our country, and I am even more committed to drive that conversation in a positive direction," his statement continued.

Unlike several candidates in the 2020 race, Bennet opposes single-payer government health care. But he says in the wake of his cancer diagnosis that "the idea that the richest country in the world hasn't figured out how to have universal health care is beyond embarrassing."

In an interview Thursday with Meet the Press host Chuck Todd, Bennet confirmed he will enter the presidential race if doctors give him a clean bill of health after surgery.

"The best excuse for not running would be this. It gives me a free pass out," he said. "I mostly feel overwhelmed at how lucky I am because we caught it early, it’s something that can be dealt with, and I’ve got insurance."

He told Todd he feels well today, and he's optimistic about his recovery.

"I feel fine. I feel perfectly fine, so if I hadn’t have had that screening, as part of a physical, I wouldn’t know that I had cancer," he said. "The point I want to make to everybody that’s watching is you got to get screened. That’s the most important thing."

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Prostate cancer is among the most common cancers in men. Bennett is on the young side for the disease. The average age of diagnosis is 66. He's in his mid-50s.

Bennet's Republican counterpart, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, sent his well-wishes to his colleague on Twitter.

"Jaime and I are holding Senator Bennet and his family in our prayers and know he won’t let this stop his continued work for Colorado and our country. Here is to a full and speedy recovery," he wrote.

Bennet, a former superintendent of Denver Public Schools, became a senator in 2009.

If Bennet does stick with his plans to join the race, he'd be one of two Democrats from Colorado running for president. Former Governor John Hickenlooper announced his campaign last month.

You can read his interview with Colorado Independent reporter Mike Littwin here.

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