- Doctors are set to operate in a hospital outside Buenos Aires
- President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner will hand over power until January 24
- Medical tests uncovered papillary carcinoma in her thyroid gland
- Supporters gather outside the hospital, posting banners and flags on the gate
Argentina's president is scheduled to temporarily hand over power Wednesday as she undergoes thyroid cancer surgery.
Doctors were set to operate on President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner at Austral Hospital, located about 60 kilometers (35 miles) outside Buenos Aires, the state-run Telam news agency reported.
She will hand over power to Vice President Amado Boudou until January 24, officials have said.
Supporters gathered outside the hospital Tuesday, posting banners and flags on a surrounding gate. Some set up camp for an overnight vigil.
"There is nothing healthier than the love between the people and the president," one sign said, according to Telam.
Recent medical tests uncovered papillary carcinoma in Fernandez's thyroid gland, presidential spokesman Alfredo Scoccimarro said last week.
The cancer has not spread to her lymph nodes or grown beyond the thyroid gland, he said.
Fernandez, 58, was sworn in for a second four-year term last month after she won re-election with more than 54% of the vote.
She became Argentina's president in 2007. Her husband, Nestor Kirchner, was president from 2003-2007. He died in October 2010.
During Fernandez's presidency, Argentina's economy has enjoyed sustained growth of about 8% annually.
Papillary carcinoma is the most common type of thyroid cancer and has a high survival rate, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
More than 95% of adults with papillary thyroid carcinoma survive at least 10 years, according to a description on the library's website. Treatment includes surgery, radioactive iodine and medication, the library says.
Possible complications in surgery can include damage to a nerve that controls the vocal cords or accidental removal of a gland that helps regulate blood calcium levels, according to the medicine library.
Recently doctors have diagnosed several current and former South American leaders with cancer.
Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2010.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced that doctors had diagnosed him with cancer in June. He did not specify what kind of cancer he had, but after undergoing several rounds of chemotherapy, he said in October that he had been cured.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff overcame cancer while she was a candidate for the office, and former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is undergoing treatment for throat cancer.