Colombian President Santos head to US for cancer tests

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos (centre) speaks during a press conference at the Santa Fe de Bogota Foundation clinic in Bogota on Nov 15, 2016.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos (centre) speaks during a press conference at the Santa Fe de Bogota Foundation clinic in Bogota on Nov 15, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

BOGOTA (AFP) - Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos will travel to the United States Wednesday (Nov 16) for medical exams after follow-up tests for a 2012 case of prostate cancer came back abnormal, he said.

Santos, this year's Nobel Peace Prize winner for his efforts to reach a peace deal with leftist rebels, announced the trip in a brief statement as he left a clinic in Bogota where he has undergone regular check-ups since having surgery to remove a small prostate tumor four years ago.

"This news comes as a surprise to my family and me. I remain confident that the result of these new tests will be positive," he said.

"I will travel tomorrow to the United States, the exam will be Thursday and I will be back Friday."

The health scare comes as Santos is struggling on multiple fronts to end a half-century conflict in Colombia that has claimed more than 260,000 lives.

His government is negotiating with both the opposition and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to save a peace deal that voters rejected in a referendum last month.

Santos's opponents argued the historic deal was too soft on the leftist guerrillas.

The government is also seeking to revive planned talks with a smaller rebel group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), that fizzled before they began.

The clinic treating Santos, the Santa Fe Foundation, said a routine exam had detected an increase in Prostate-Specific Antigen, a blood test used to screen for prostate cancer.

It said doctors had recommended further testing at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore with "a technology not yet available" in Colombia.

Doctors gave Santos a clean bill of health after his 2012 prostate surgery, which he underwent with local anesthetic. He remained in power throughout, even while under the knife.

Santos, who won election in 2010, was re-elected in 2014 in a vote widely seen as a referendum on the peace process.

The negotiations have since gotten bogged down in messy politics.

But despite the setback suffered when voters rejected the initial peace deal, Santos got a big boost from the international community when the Nobel committee awarded him the peace prize five days later, on Oct 7.