PM Lee to undergo surgery for prostate cancer

PM Lee to undergo surgery for prostate cancer
A photo taken of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in January 2015 at the Singapore General Hospital after he woke up from the prostate biopsy, the procedure that detected his prostate cancer.

SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has been diagnosed with prostate cancer and will undergo surgery today to remove his prostate gland, said a statement from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) yesterday.

He will be on medical leave for a week and is expected to recover fully.

Mr Lee had been diagnosed with prostate cancer last month, after a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan showed suspicious lesions on his prostate.

A subsequent biopsy found cancer cells in one out of 38 samples taken.

The diagnosis is unrelated to Mr Lee's previous bout with cancer in 1992, when he had suffered from intermediate grade malignant lymphoma. He had received chemotherapy then and was cleared of cancer cells in April 1993.

Yesterday, the PMO said that Mr Lee has taken his doctors' advice to remove his prostate gland by undergoing a robot-assisted keyhole prostatectomy.

The procedure will be performed by Singapore General Hospital lead urologist Christopher Cheng, who was a pioneer in the use of robots in surgery.

Prostate cancer, which forms in the tissues of the prostate - a gland in the male reproductive system below the bladder - is the third- most common cancer among Singaporean men. It is usually treated through radiation therapy, hormone therapy, surgery and chemotherapy.

In November, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, 73, underwent surgery for prostate cancer. He returned to work a week later and has been given a clean bill of health.

This type of cancer usually occurs in older men. Mr Lee turned 63 on Tuesday.

Patients with a similar medical profile and treatment as him have a cancer-specific survival rate of 99 per cent at 15 years, said the PMO, citing data from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre in the United States.

Despite his diagnosis, Mr Lee has kept to his busy schedule. He spent the first week of this month in Germany and Spain on a working visit, sat in on the most recent Parliament sessions on Thursday and Friday, and attended a community event at his Teck Ghee ward on Saturday.

Yesterday, Mr Lee thanked well-wishers for sending him their "concern, good wishes and encouraging words".

"I'm all set for my op tomorrow, and so are my surgeon and medical team," he said in a Facebook post.

This article by The Straits Times was published in MyPaper, a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.

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