Prime Minister Ehud Olmert appears to ‘have let the cat out of the bag on Monday when he announced during a press conference that he has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Olmert, who has previously tried to show that he is in the best of health, said that the tumor found during a “routine examination” was ‘microscopic’ in size and the once removed he stood an excellent chance of being cured without having to undergo either chemo or radiation therapy.

Olmert, aged 62, told his audience that the surgical procedure, planned to take place next month, and following the scheduled peace conference in America, would not keep him from performing his duties as head of state. The announcement was aired on a number of international news networks, including Sky News and CNN.

Professor Shuki Shemer, a former Health Ministry Director and specialist in treating prostate cancer, said that Olmert’s condition is more prevalent in men over age 60, although it can strike younger men too. The disease is curable if caught in time, i.e., before the malignancy spreads outside the prostate gland, which is located in men between the bladder and urethra.

Olmert thought it necessary to advise his condition to the public, his press aids said. he wanted to assure everyone, especially the general public, that his condition is not life threatening and is 90% curable. Following his return from the Annapolis conference, Olmert will undergo a three hour surgical procedure to remove his prostate gland. Judging from men who had undergone this “procedure” however, recovery is not immediate and is often accompanied with temporary problems of incontinence or inability to hold urine in the bladder. Anyone who has visited a urology department of a major hospital and seen men walking along pulling a bag of bloody urine can testify to the fact that prostate surgery (in the event of a tumor) is no picnic.

Olmert himself had to take over the reins of government nearly two years ago when Ariel Sharon was stricken with a massive stroke in January, 2006. Due to this incident, it is hoped that arrangements have been made for the assistant prime minister to temporarily stand in during Olmert’s incapacity. Though prostate cancer is a much slower progressing malignancy than other forms of cancer, it still must be dealt with in time. French President Francois Mitterand died of this disease several years ago, and Ezer Weizman, a former Israeli President, also contracted the disease.

Despite the fate of Mr. Mitterrand, only 16% of men affected with prostate cancer will have any symptoms, and only 6% will eventually die from the disease due to its slow metastasis or spreading.

Professor Shemer noted that men in their 60’s had a 50 – 60% chance to be stricken by prostate cancer, while men over 70 have an 80% chance. “It’s just something that all men eventually face due to the gland’s designed function”, he added.