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This article was published 24/2/2012 (3367 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
SAO PAULO, Brazil -- As Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez flies to Cuba for surgery to remove a possibly cancerous growth, top doctors say he could be taking a risk by skipping more respected cancer centres in Brazil or the U.S. if his illness proves more complicated.
What muddies that assessment is the miserly amount of detail the firebrand leftist president has revealed about his condition. Since first disclosing his cancer last June, he has only said doctors removed a baseball-sized tumour in his pelvic region last year, and that the new growth discovered this week was two centimetres in size and found in the same area.
He had earlier said his cancer was in remission after completing weeks of chemotherapy.
But late Thursday Chavez, 57, said he's "preparing to face the worst."
Referring to the new growth, he said: "The possibility that it's malignant is greater than it not being (malignant)."
Medical experts said if Chavez has a "standard" cancer, or one that hasn't spread or isn't a rarer and deadlier type of tumour, seeking treatment in Cuba is likely as good as anywhere else. But if his cancer is more complex, many said he's at risk in not opting for treatment in the U.S., Europe or Brazil -- which has Latin America's most advanced cancer centres.
"If you have a common cancer, that of the breast, colon or lung... then it's going to be easy to find standards of care that are the same in the U.S., Brazil or Cuba," said Dr. Julian Molina, an oncologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. "The problem comes when you have a tumour that's not one of the common ones, and that's what most of us suspect Chavez has."
Latin America's top cancer doctor, Paulo Hoff, who heads the cancer centre at Sao Paulo's Sirio-Libanes hospital, considered the region's best, would not talk about Chavez's case. But he said a cancerous tumour in the pelvic region would be mainly limited to four types: prostate, rectal, bladder and sarcoma, the latter being rare and deadly.
Mayo Clinic cancer specialist Molina said the consensus among doctors in Latin America and the U.S. he's spoken with is that Chavez has a sarcoma tumour because those tend to come back in the same site where a previous tumour was removed.
Sarcomas in the pelvic region are also associated with an increased rate of the cancer spreading, making them deadlier.
While addressing thousands of cheering supporters Thursday night, Chavez said he was "preparing to face the worst" as he prepares to undergo surgery next week.
He recalled how he recently dreamed about an encounter with Jesus Christ and said, "He told me, 'Chavez, get up, it's not time to die.' "
-- The Associated Press