Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who has been hospitalized since Jan. 1, has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, according to a statement from Walter Reed Medical Center officials.
Austin underwent a "minimally invasive" prostatectomy at Walter Reed to “treat and cure prostate cancer” on Dec. 22 and was discharged without complications, the officials said. But Austin experienced complications from a urinary tract infection that led him to be hospitalized on Jan. 1.
“His prostate cancer was detected early, and his prognosis is excellent,” according to a statement from Dr. John Maddox, Trauma Medical Director, and Dr. Gregory Chesnut, Center for Prostate Disease Research of the Murtha Cancer Center Director, at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD.
Austin was transferred to the intensive care unit on Jan. 2. Doctors later discovered Austin was suffering from “abdominal fluid complications impairing the function of his small intestines.”
“This resulted in the back up of his intestinal contents which was treated by placing a tube through his nose to drain his stomach,” the doctors said. “The abdominal fluid collections were drained by non-surgical drain placement.”
Austin has “progressed steadily” and his infection has cleared.
Doctors said they anticipate Austin will make a full recovery though it can be a lengthy process.
The doctors said Austin never lost consciousness and never underwent general anesthesia.
Prior to now, the Pentagon has not released any specific information about Austin’s condition.
Austin and his staff, meanwhile, have faced criticism from lawmakers for failing to immediately notify the White House and Congress about his condition, with some Republicans calling for his resignation.
Austin has released a statement taking responsibility for the lack of transparency regarding his absence and Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman, has apologized for not alerting the public to Austin’s condition shortly after he learned of it on Jan. 2. President Biden was not made aware of Austin's condition until Jan. 4.
Ryder said Austin’s chief of staff, Kelly Magsamen, was sick and unable to immediately notify the National Security Council about Austin’s absence.
The doctors, meanwhile, note in their statement that prostate cancer is the most common cause of cancer among American men, impacting one in every eight -- and one in every six black men -- during their lifetimes.
“Despite the frequency of prostate cancer, discussions about screening, treatment and support are often deeply personal and private ones,” the doctors said. “Early screening is important for detection and treatment of prostate cancer and people should talk to their doctors to see what screening is appropriate for them.”
Ryder, during a Pentagon press conference, said Austin is in full contact with his staff and continues to monitor U.S. military operations worldwide.
Ryder said the department has launched a new 30-day review of the department’s notification process for assumption of the duties of the defense secretary.