WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was diagnosed with prostate cancer in December and underwent a procedure to treat and cure it, according to a statement from Walter Reed National Military Center officials on Tuesday.
Following the procedure, Austin developed a urinary tract infection that led to serious intestinal complications and doctors placed him in the Intensive Care Unit.
“Secretary Austin recovered uneventfully from his surgery and returned home the next morning. His prostate cancer was detected early, and his prognosis is excellent,” the officials said.
The cancer was discovered after a routine prostate screening on December 22 and Austin was admitted to the hospital after suffering complications that included “nausea with severe abdominal, hip, and leg pain,” the officials said. Doctors would later determine that to be a urinary tract infection.
Doctors then discovered that Austin had “abdominal fluid collections 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 officials added. “The abdominal fluid collections were drained by non-surgical drain placement. He has progressed steadily throughout his stay.”
Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters Tuesday that Austin “continues to recover well and is in good spirits” while adding the department will be releasing daily status updates about his condition.
The news comes after the Pentagon first announced Austin’s hospitalization on Friday, which was news to top officials — including President Joe Biden. National security adviser Jake Sullivan informed the President of the news late Thursday, according to a U.S. official. The White House said Austin spoke with Biden last Saturday, describing the conversation as “warm”, adding the President has “full confidence” in Austin to do his job.
The move was met with backlash from Republicans, who have called for Austin to be fired.
National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters on Monday Austin would stay in the job, adding the President “respects the fact that Secretary Austin took ownership for the lack of transparency”.