NEW: Brazil's finance minister says Lula is "a fighter" and will beat cancer
One of Lula's doctors says that he appears to be doing well
The ex-president is being treated at Sao Paulo's Syrian-Lebanese Hospital
His tumor is localized and has not metastisized, a hospital spokeswoman says
Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will begin chemotherapy in the coming days to treat a malignant tumor in his larynx, a hospital official said Saturday.
Lula, 66, will be treated at Sao Paulo’s Syrian-Lebanese Hospital, said hospital spokeswoman Mirtes Bogea. It is not clear what day the treatment will begin.
He was diagnosed Saturday morning after undergoing medical examinations, Bogea said.
“This is a localized tumor,” noted Bogea, meaning that it has not spread elsewhere in the body. She added that the tumor has not metastasized, a characteristic of most cancerous cells.
Finance Minister Guido Mantega told reporters that he attended Lula’s birthday party last week and noticed that his voice sounded hoarse.
“But since he has been traveling a lot and delivering speeches, we all thought it was normal,” he told CNN affiliate Rede Record TV.
On Saturday, Mantega predicted Lula would beat cancer. He noted that former first lady Marisa Leticia has been with Lula ever since he came to the hospital for a check-up on Friday.
“He is a fighter,” Mantega told reporters, adding he expected Lula will leave the hospital later Saturday. “He has overcome lesser obstacles and will overcome this one as well.”
Raul Cutait, one of the doctors treating the former president told Rede Record TV that Lula appears well. He said it is also likely that therapy will begin early next week.
Sao Paulo’s Syrian-Lebanese hospital is considered one of the region’s top cancer treatment centers.
Founded in 1921 by Syrian and Lebanese immigrants, the facility’s staff has also treated Paraguay’s President Fernando Lugo and former Brazilian Vice President Jose Alencar, who died in March after a long battle against abdominal cancer.
Its patients also include current Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff – Lula’s handpicked successor and is the first woman to hold the presidency – who was treated in 2005 for lymphoma.
Rousseff said on her Twitter account that she’d spoken to Lula’s wife, and in a press release issued Saturday wished her predecessor a “fast recovery.”
“As you all know, I went through the same thing, with the competent team of the Syrian-Lebanese hospital, which allowed me to completely recover,” she said. “I am sure the same thing will happen to President Lula.”
Lula, who rose from a childhood of poverty to become a union leader, won elections in 2002 to become Brazil’s first working-class president.
He is widely credited with helping steer the nation into becoming an economic powerhouse, leaving office last year with high approval ratings. Presidents, however, are barred from running for a third consecutive term.
When Lula turned 66 years-old last Thursday, he addressed the Brazilian public via the Internet, saying that he had dedicated more than half his half to improving Brazil’s democracy.
“The cake is not one of the biggest cakes,” he said, with a wink, during a speech. “But I hope to give to all of you a tiny bite.”