By Brian Love
French President Francois Hollande acknowledged on Wednesday that he underwent treatment for a swollen prostate just before he ran for office, declaring after a radio station revealed the issue that the condition was “benign”.
The health of French leaders has been a sensitive issue since former president Francois Mitterrand kept his prostate cancer secret for over a decade of his 14 years in power. He died less than a year after leaving office in 1995.
A statement issued by the 59-year-old Hollande’s office said he spent a few days in hospital in February 2011 and was treated for “a benign swelling of the prostate.”
“No medical follow-up was considered necessary in the wake of the operation,” said the statement. The Socialist leader had issued two public health reports since becoming president in May 2012, that last of them in March 2013.
State radio station France Info said on Wednesday Hollande was treated on two occasions for the problem, the second step involving an operation and a stay of one week in hospital.
Hollande’s run for the presidency began in March 2011 when he entered his Socialist party’s primary contest. He beat conservative predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy in a May 2012 run-off to become France’s first Socialist head of state since Mitterrand.
The prostate cancer that ultimately killed Mitterrand was diagnosed just months after he was elected president in 1981 but was only made public in 1992, well into his second term.
His doctor, Claude Gubler, revealed after his death that regular public health reports during his time in office were false. Georges Pompidou, president from 1969 to 1974, also died from a cancer that was long kept secret.
While there is no constitutional obligation to do so, more recent French leaders from Jacques Chirac to Sarkozy and now Hollande have sought to dispel any concerns by committing to divulge any significant health issues to the public.
Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault denounced what he described as excessive media intrusion on Hollande’s prostate issue, saying that there was no cause for worry and that the president had pledged to be transparent about his health.
Hollande’s two official health bulletins as president have reported a “normal” state of health.
Chirac, president from 1995 to 2007, was admitted to hospital with a minor stroke in late 2005 that was played down at the time.
Shortly after he assumed the presidency in 2007, Sarkozy underwent a minor operation, unpublicised at the time, to remove a throat abscess. A subsequent incident, when he was hospitalised after fainting while out jogging, was made public.