Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin returns to hospital
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is back at Walter Reed Military Medical Center.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was hospitalized in the critical care unit at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Sunday after developing symptoms “suggesting an emergent bladder issue,” the Pentagon said.
It was unclear how long Austin will remain hospitalized, two doctors said in a statement released Sunday evening by the Pentagon.
On Dec. 22, Austin underwent prostate-removal surgery to treat cancer of the prostate at Walter Reed. He returned home and more than a week later was hospitalized due to a urinary tract infection that left him with severe abdominal, hip and leg pain.
On Sunday, his doctors said the current bladder issue “is not expected to change his anticipated full recovery,” adding his cancer prognosis remains excellent.
Other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer among American men, according to the American Cancer Society. The cancer is treated with surgery to remove the prostate, radiation or medications − or combination of those treatments. In other cases, doctors recommend active surveillance, which means doctors monitor for signs of tumor growth but do not immediately treat the cancer.
Prostate cancer affects more than one in eight U.S. men, and one in six Black men, during their lifetime. The the risk of getting it increases with age. Austin, the first Black defense secretary, is 70.
What complications can occur after prostate removal?
Doctors not involved in Austin’s care said a small percentage of men can develop complications such as infections or difficulty urinating following prostate surgery.
When a man undergoes prostate removal surgery, doctors must connect the bladder to the urethra. In rare cases, complications can result if that connection is too tight or too loose, said Boback M. Berookhim, a urologist Northwell Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
If the connection is too lose, urine can leak and pool within the pelvis, which can affect other organs and lead to infection, Berookhim said.
If the connection is too tight, some men are unable to urinate at all. That requires doctors to insert a urinary catheter to drain the the urine.
“It’s more plumbing question than anything else,” Berookhim said. “It’s either the connection is too loose and there’s urine leaking, or it’s too tight and there’s nothing coming out whatsoever.”
The American Cancer Society estimates 288,300 new cases of prostate cancer were diagnosed in 2023 and nearly 35,000 men died from the disease. Black men are more than twice as likely to die from prostate cancer and are more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage compared to white men.
The American Cancer Society recommends Black men discuss with their doctor potentially screening for prostate cancer beginning at age 45. Screening can include a physical exam of the prostate with rectal exam as well the prostate-specific antigen blood test.
“It’s not just that the prevalence is higher, it’s also that (Black) men have a risk of more aggressive cancers in general,” Berookhim said.