Argentine President Fernandez has thyroid cancer

By MICHAEL WARREN | December 27, 2011 | 8:11 PM EST

FILE - In this Dec. 10, 2011, file photo, Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez gestures after her swearing-in ceremony at the government house in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Fernadez has thyroid cancer, but it has not spread and will be surgically removed on Jan. 4, and then she will take 20 days of medical leave, during which Vice President Amado Boudou will run the country, Alfredo Scoccimarro, Fernandez's spokesman said Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2011. (AP Photo/Jorge Araujo, file)

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — President Cristina Fernandez has thyroid cancer, but test results Tuesday show that it remains limited to a lobe in the right side of her neck, and has not metastasized or spread into her lymph nodes, her spokesman said.

The presidential medical service said the cancer was discovered during a routine exam on Dec. 22, and that Fernandez received the results from follow up tests on Tuesday, shortly before the announcement by Alfredo Scoccimarro.

Fernandez will undergo surgery on Jan. 4 at the Hospital Austral in Buenos Aires and then take 20 days of medical leave, during which Vice President Amado Boudou will run the country, he said.

Fernandez, 58, will keep up her normal routine meanwhile, Scoccimarro said, noting that she will appear at several events on Wednesday as planned.

This kind of thyroid cancer is highly survivable, with more than 95 percent of patients living at least 10 years after detection, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

The usual treatment is to surgically remove as much of the cancerous material as possible, and then follow up with radioactive iodide treatments, taken orally. This substance helps to destroy any remnants of the cancerous gland and provide for clearer images showing any additional cancer, the NIH said on its Web site.

After surgery, patients usually must take medicine for the rest of their lives to replace a hormone that the thyroid glands produce. Blood tests every six to 12 months to measure thyroid levels also are recommended.

Fernandez is only the latest South American leader to be diagnosed with cancer. Presidents Fernando Lugo of Paraguay, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Dilma Rousseff of Brazil all have undergone treatments recently.

Presidential doctors Luis Buonomo and Marcelo Ballesteros said the operation will be led by Dr. Pedro Sacco, chief of the surgery department at Hospital Austral. Sacco also runs the Head and Neck Service of the oncology institute at the University of Buenos Aires.