SINGAPORE (AFP) – Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has been diagnosed with prostate cancer and will undergo surgery on Monday, but is expected to recover fully after a week’s medical leave, his office said Sunday.
It is the second bout with cancer for Lee, who was diagnosed with lymphoma in 1993, for which he underwent chemotherapy and is now in remission.
Lee “has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, and will undergo surgery to remove his prostate gland on Monday 16 February 2015”, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean will stand in for 63-year-old Lee during his one week medical leave, the statement said.
Data from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in the United States “show that patients with similar medical profile and treatment have a cancer specific survival rate of 99 per cent at 15 years”, it said.
Lee posted an upbeat message on his Facebook page after the announcement, thanking people who expressed concern and wished him well.
“I’m all set for my op tomorrow, and so are my surgeon and medical team,” he wrote above a picture of himself smiling from a hospital bed after a biopsy last month.
Lee, son of Singapore’s founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, underwent a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) prostate test in January which showed “suspicious lesions”, the statement added.
“A subsequent biopsy found that one out of 38 samples contained cancer cells,” it said.
“Mr Lee decided on the surgical treatment option on the advice of a panel of doctors… and is expected to recover fully.”
Lee has been prime minister since August 2004.
News of his illness came amid widespread expectations that the next general elections will be held before they are due in early 2017, possibly this year.
In the last election, held in May 2011, Lee’s People’s Action Party (PAP), which has governed Singapore since 1959, suffered its worst setback after a large district was wrested by the opposition and its share of the popular vote plunged.
After the election, Lee launched reforms to address voters’ gripes over the large influx of foreign workers and immigrants into the compact city-state as well as the rising cost of living.
Before entering politics, Lee was a brigadier-general in the Singapore Armed Forces.
He studied at Britain’s University of Cambridge, graduating with a BA in Mathematics and a Diploma in Computer Science, and subsequently earned a Masters in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School in the United States.
His frail 91-year-old father Lee Kuan Yew, who was prime minister from 1959 to 1990, is still an MP but no longer plays an active role in politics.