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Cancer expert speaks on Chavez's latest surgery

posted 27 Feb 2012, 14:25 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 27 Feb 2012, 14:25 ]

Doctors say Chavez has a shot at a cure.

CARACAS, VENEZUELA (FILE) (REUTERS - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was in Cuba for new cancer surgery on Monday (February 27), after an emotional farewell to anxious supporters at the end of last week and vowing to return for victory in the October election.

Chavez's imminent surgery on a likely malignant lesion has raised questions over his previous claims of full recovery.

But medical experts in the U.S. and in Venezuela say the president still has a chance to be cured.

Oncologist Sunil Daryanani of the Hospital de Clinicas in Caracas said the fact that Chavez's original tumour was found under an infection during his June 2011 treatment had made recurrence more likely because a wider area was affected.

"In terms of oncology and disease when someone is having recurrent disease which is this basically there's disease that's come back again, there are a number of items that for us are important. One of them is the time that has passed between completing treatment until this new presentation of the disease. So that's time to progression, it's a term we use very frequently. So it is somewhat worrying that the time between having completed treatment and this recurrence is very short. Now when one has recurrent disease, probably there are a number of scenarios that are probably possible. One of them is that someone may have a local recurrence, that is recurrence within the site of the original disease. Now this is probably the case with President Chavez, and probably is the least bad of all the possible scenarios in the sense that some other people may have widespread disease, and that's where we have a very negative scenario. So the fact that he's going to go through surgery is probably one of the more favourable scenarios," said Daryanani.

It is still not clear what kind of cancer the Venezuelan leader has, but comments made by Chavez and his handlers suggest he may have rectal or bladder cancer, or possibly soft tissue sarcoma.

Chavez has said he may need radiotherapy treatment after the operation in Havana - where he first had surgery for a cancerous pelvic tumour last year - raising the prospect of another lengthy convalescence.

However, the socialist leader has remained stoic in a stream of public appearances.

"If this new element that I have turns out to be malignant, we will suppose - equally we will treat it and we will get rid of it - that I will make all efforts that I need to lead you, even in the worst of my personal difficulties, to a victory on October 7 [presidential elections]. You can rest assured that I will do it, even during the worst of difficulties I may need to face in these next months. It doesn't matter," he said in an address to supporters on Thursday (February 23).

Daryanani said that the lack of detailed information about his health could be a strategy.

"I used to think personally that information is power. Now I feel that disinformation is also power. So I think the fact that this is kept under tight wrap is a way of gaining or keeping some political edge over things," said Daryanani.

Chavez has chosen Havana, over an offer of treatment from Brazil and some calls for him to show support for Venezuela's health system. In Cuba he is guaranteed discreet treatment by friendly authorities and reduced chances of media leaks.

He will also be able to enjoy the company of mentor and friend Fidel Castro, the former president of Cuba.