FORMER South African President Nelson Mandela diagnosed with prostate cancer

Tuesday, July 24th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ Former South African President Nelson Mandela began radiation therapy Tuesday for prostate cancer, his spokeswoman said. The cancer was not considered life-threatening.

The seven-week radiation regime will require the 83-year-old Mandela to get treatment for about 10 minutes every day.

``I think it's a thing that he'll approach positively and hopefully the doctors will do the rest,'' Mandela's spokeswoman, Zelda la Grange, told The Associated Press.

Last November, Mandela's doctors said they had discovered high protein levels in his blood, a possible indicator of prostate cancer. They discovered the cancer in a subsequent examination.

The cancer was found three to four years before it would have started causing trouble, his urologist, Dr. Louis Gecelter, told The Associated Press. Mandela is not currently sick and he is not experiencing any symptoms.

``It's a very early case of cancer of the prostate, and he should be cured,'' he said. ``This isn't going to impact on his life expectancy. He's going to live until one hundred and plenty years.''

Unlike more aggressive forms of cancer treatment, the radiation therapy will not make Mandela sick, Gecelter said.

Since retiring from the presidency in 1999, Mandela, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has maintained an extremely active schedule, regularly traveling overseas and mediating peace efforts in Burundi. He is also writing a second autobiography.

Mandela, however, did not have a very hectic schedule over the next few weeks, so was able to schedule the outpatient cancer treatment for now, la Grange said.

``Mr. Mandela has got a positive attitude toward life. No matter what happens he has a way of dealing with things in a positive way,'' la Grange said.

Mandela had most of his prostate removed in surgery over a decade ago after tumors were discovered in the gland. Those tumors proved to be benign.

Gecelter said Mandela was an excellent patient who always cooperated, never complained and always complied with treatment.