SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has been diagnosed with prostate cancer and will undergo surgery on Monday to remove his prostate gland, said a statement from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) on Sunday.
He will be on medical leave for a week and is expected to recover fully.
Mr Lee had been diagnosed with prostate cancer in January, 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.
On Sunday, the PMO said 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 Feb 10.
Patients with a similar medical profile and treatment as Mr Lee 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 February 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.
During Mr Lee's week of medical leave, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Teo Chee Hean will be the acting Prime Minister.
In a Facebook post shortly after the announcement on PM Lee, Mr Teo said in his own Facebook post: "Wishing PM Lee a smooth operation and speedy recovery. Rest well and recover fully before getting back to your hectic schedule."
PM Lee also posted the statement from the PMO on his Facebook page. It attracted over 700 comments in the first 15 minutes from well-wishers. A sampling:
- Wendy Koh: Sending you positive energy Mr Lee. One week leave only? Take more time Mr Lee. Your body needs to recover.
- Jackson Gan: SGH Urology Dept is one of the best in the world, i was suffering from upper urinal tract blockage for more than one decade before they came to my rescue, and now i live my life as if the illness had never happened. Mr.Lee is in good hands, hands of the Da Vinci robot, literally.
- Elspeth Jones: Dear Prime Minister I pray for a speedy recovery. You have shown such courage carrying on your official duties to the last minute. Singapore I hope you realise what a fantastic leader you have!!!
- Arulmalai Selvam: Dear PM, sorry to hear this. You are not alone to fight cancer. Many of us are fighting cancer and doing good. Wish you a speedy recovery and cancer free life.
- Nooraini Salleh Get well soon please. My prayers are wz u