PM diagnosed with pancreatic cancer

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados: Prime Minister David Thompson has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

However, his personal doctor, Richard Ishmael, says Thompson is responding to treatment and is physically well enough to continue leading the country.

In a statement issued last week, Dr. Ishmael, who has been Thompson’s doctor for the past 20 years, said the Prime Minister has been undergoing chemotherapy at the New York Presbyterian Hospital to shrink the tumour because it is too dangerous to remove it at this stage.

“After consultation with three world-renowned pancreatic surgeons, it was decided that the best course of action was for him to undergo intense chemotherapy to try to shrink the tumour first to enable its safe removal. So far he has had four rounds of chemotherapy followed by a repeat abdominal CT scan which has shown a moderate shrinkage of the tumour with no new spread.

“Because of the intense chemotherapy the Prime Minister has lost a considerable amount of weight. He also feels tired at times and needs to rest more than usual to regain his strength. His mind, brain and intellect are as sharp as ever and from a medical standpoint there is no reason why he cannot continue to perform his duties as Prime Minister, albeit at a reduced pace,” said Ishmael.

Ishmael did not indicate what the prognosis was and did not allow questions from the media after delivering his statement, saying that he expected people to respect the privacy of Thompson and his family.

However, Ishmael explained the reason Thompson left Barbados last week, one week after returning to the job following a two-month leave of absence.

He said Thompson had intended to go back to New York in two weeks for another round of chemotherapy, a repeat CT scan and, if feasible, surgery. However, several days after returning home and resuming his duties, Thompson developed intense abdominal pain and vomiting and a CT scan uncovered a clot in the veins around the pancreas.

Ishmael said it was in Thompson’s best interest to return to New York for immediate treatment, which he did. According to the medical practitioner, the clot has started to dissolve and the Prime Minister is doing better and is “in good spirits”.

He is scheduled to return home this week.

During his statement to the media, Ishmael revealed that apart from periodic symptoms related to gastroesophageal reflux disease (acid reflux) and mild hypertension, Thompson had no major health issues prior to the discovery of the tumour in his pancreas.

He said Thompson had two full check-ups, physical examinations and tests since being elected to office in January 2008 and all results were normal.

But it was in March 2010, when he complained of stomach pain that did not respond to the usual gastro reflux medications, that several tests were ordered and doctors found there was a problem with his pancreas.

Ishmael said he referred Thompson to the New York Presbyterian Hospital where he underwent “a number of tests and procedures not available in Barbados”. But he said no definitive diagnosis was made initially and the Prime Minister returned to Barbados where he made his first press statement on the issue in May.

Ishmael said it was only after Thompson returned to New York and had a third biopsy done that the tumour in his pancreatic gland was discovered.

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