Argentina's President is cancer-free, after all

Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez (Kirchner) has been found not to have cancer after all, her spokesperson said on Saturday, in a reversal as dramatic as the initial diagnosis that resulted in the removal of her thyroid.

An examination of the thyroid removed in a three-and-a-half hour operation “ruled out the presence of cancer cells, thus modifying the initial diagnosis”, Fernandez’s spokesperson, Alfredo Scoccimarro, said.

He said Fernandez (58) had left the private Austral hospital in Pilar, 50 kilometres north of Buenos Aires, and was convalescing at her official residence in the northern suburb of Olivos.

After a biopsy late-December, Kirchner’s doctors diagnosed her with thyroid cancer and the president underwent surgery on Wednesday to have it removed.

But the follow-up histopathologic examination found that while there were nodules in both lobes of the president’s thyroid gland, there was no cancer, Scoccimarro said.

Treatment sufficient
With the new diagnosis, Fernandez’s medical team “considers that the surgical treatment undertaken is sufficient and the administration of radioactive iodine is no longer necessary”, the spokesperson said.

The president “is resting normally and is in optimal general health, on the basis of which the medical team has authorised her release”, he said.

Medical experts said the abrupt turnaround in the diagnosis was not so surprising.

“In cases of this type, it is something that can happen,” Ernesto Ibarra Puente, a specialist in such maladies, told the press. “The initial diagnosis was given due to a papillary cell, and the surgeon, a prestigious specialist, decided to operate.”

“A second biopsy appears to have found nothing”, he said, but an operation would still be necessary “because there could be micro carcinomas and one cannot do 80 biopsies”.

Most common form
Papillary tumours are the most common form of thyroid cancer, and the most susceptible to treatment.

But the latest turn of events was still unexpected, as dramatic in its way as the bombshell announcement on December 27 that the president had cancer, less than a month after she had been sworn in to a second term in office.

The news, which made her the fifth Latin American leader to ‘fall prey’ to cancer, caused an outpouring of emotion in a country that had just re-elected her with 54% of the vote.

Hundreds of Argentines, including many members of her Peronist party, gathered outside the hospital on hearing the news on Tuesday, to follow her progress hour by hour through the long operation that ensued.

Every time a spokesperson read out a favourable medical report, the crowd outside the Austral clinic, some in tears, would explode with joy amid shouts of “Bravo, Cristina!” and banners that read “Courage, Cristina!”

Low blood pressure
In 2011, the Argentine president had been forced to interrupt her activities on three occasions because of bouts of low blood pressure.

She has taken medical leave until January 24, and in the interim, the powers of the presidency are being exercised by Vice President Amado Boudou, the former economy minister who was also recently sworn in to office.

Fernandez, who cuts a stylish figure in high heels and lacquered nails, has had a turbulent political career alongside her husband and presidential predecessor Nestor Kirchner, who died of a heart attack October 27 2010.—AFP

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