Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced Monday that he has been diagnosed with stage T1 prostate cancer, which will not require radiation or chemotherapy. He added that he is expected to make a full recovery. Olmert clarified that he would continue to run the State's affairs.
In a special press conference, Olmert's physicians, Dr. Shlomo Segev and Dr. Kobi Ramon of the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, said that Olmert's tumor "is restricted to the prostate and is of no danger to him." They added that the tumor was discovered in a routine checkup following Olmert's return from Russia and that the prime minister was not exhibiting symptoms.
Olmert's doctors further said that at this time they have not determined whether or not he would have to undergo surgery to remove the tumor. Should he undergo any medical procedure under full anesthesia, he would be declared temporarily unable to fulfill his duties.
Prostate cancer is classified as an adenocarcinoma, or glandular cancer, beginning when normal semen-secreting prostate gland cells mutate into cancer cells.
The specific causes of prostate cancer remain unknown, but age, genetics, diet, lifestyle, medications may contribute to a man's risk of developing the disease; The primary risk factor is age: Prostate cancer is uncommon in men less than 45 years old.
Cancer stages are determined according to a four-stage ranking system, taking into account the tumor's size, the number of involved lymph nodes, and the presence of any other metastases: Clinical T1 and T2 cancers stages are found only in the prostate, while T3 and T4 cancers have spread elsewhere.
On Monday morning, Olmert continued to conduct business as usual in a meeting with European Commissioner for External Relation Benita Ferrero-Waldner at his office in Jerusalem.
Public's right to know?
At the beginning of 2006, former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a light stroke, after which he underwent a series of medical tests. He later suffered a massive stroke and has been unconscious ever since.
Olmert has undergone a series of medical tests since taking office. In January 2007, Ynet reported that the prime minister had failed to inform the public on tests he underwent at the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer.
During the first days of Sharon's hospitalization, there were many speculations in the media as to the nature of the treatments he was receiving.
That was also the first time a public demand was made heard: the political leaders in Israel must keep the public informed and updated as to their health, just as their counterparts in the US and other Western countries do.
Meanwhile, the US State Department said Monday that Condoleezza Rice still intends to visit the Middle East next week despite Olmert's illness.
Rice telephoned the prime minister to wish him a speedy recovery.
The White House also played down Olmert's illness.
"Obviously we wish him very well. It sounds, just from reading reports, that it was caught early and therefore he has an excellent chance of beating it," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.
"Just reading press reports there didn't seem to me that there would be any reason to delay," she said.
News agencies contributed to this report