February 15, 2015 / 10:29 AM / 3 years ago

Singapore PM Lee has prostate cancer, to take medical leave

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has been diagnosed with prostate cancer and will undergo surgery to remove his prostate gland on Monday, his office said on Sunday.

Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong listens to the speech during the plenary session of the 25th ASEAN summit at Myanmar International Convention Centre in Naypyitaw November 12, 2014. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Lee, 63, will be on medical leave for one week and during this period Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean will head the government, the statement appearing on Lee’s Facebook page said.

Lee was previously diagnosed with lymphoma in 1992 but the cancer went into remission after successful chemotherapy.

Lee, who has been prime minister since 2004, decided on the surgery option on the advice of a panel of doctors and is expected to recover fully, the statement said.

“I’m all set for my op tomorrow, and so are my surgeon and medical team,” Lee said on his Facebook page, posting a selfie from the hospital bed. Lee Hsien Loong is the eldest son of Lee Kuan Yew, the architect of modern Singapore.

Lee’s government is to present its national budget on Feb. 23, which analysts said could take advantage of the country’s fiscal strength to extend help to a wider populace beyond the older generation, the main beneficiary of last year’s budget.

The next elections must be held by January 2017, but there has been speculation in the media and blogs that it could take place as early as later this year after Singapore celebrates its 50th anniversary of independence in August.

The People’s Action Party, founded by Lee’s father, has ruled Singapore since the country’s independence in 1965, but in the last elections in 2011 the party took its lowest ever share of the vote, with many citizens unhappy over the high cost of living and a rise in immigration.

Lee’s government has taken steps to make it harder for firms to hire low-cost foreign workers to try to reduce its dependence on overseas labor and address complaints by citizens concerned about overcrowding and increased competition for jobs.

Lee’s statement cited data from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York showing that patients with similar medical profile and treatment have a cancer specific survival rate of 99 percent at 15 years.

Lee rose through the ranks in the military before following in his father’s footsteps into politics in 1984.

Additional reporting by Rujun Shen; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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