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Czech Republic: Malignant Tumor Removed From President Havel's Lung

Prague, 2 December 1996 (RFE/RL) - Czech President Vaclav Havel today underwent, what doctors are calling radical, invasive surgery for a malignant tumor.

Head surgeon Pavel Pasko, said Havel had a "very small," -- about 15 millimeter -- tumor on his right lung. Pasko said doctors removed half the affected lung.

The operation in a Prague hospital lasted three and a half hours.

Havel's spokesman Ladislav Spacek said the tumor was caught at an early stage and the prognosis for the President is good.

But Pasko said it's difficult to say whether the disease could spread. He said "I don't think it will spread." Pasko said he was happy with the result of the surgery.

He said Havel will remain hospitalized for another seven to 10 days. Pasko said the president could return to his normal duties within about six weeks, if there are no complications.

Havel was hospitalized last week after suffering with pneumonia and the flu at home for several weeks.

President Vaclav Havel continues to smoke. Surgeon Pavel Pasko told journalists the president has cut down his smoking in recent days; limiting himself to four or five cigarettes a day. He added that one of the last cigarettes Havel smoked prior to surgery was with the Czech Minister of Health.

The 60-year-old Havel and Minister of Health, Jan Strasky, are both heavy smokers.

Following today's operation, Pasko also indirectly criticized the Czech health care system. Responding to a question on how much the operation cost, Pasko pointed out the Czech national health insurance system values the surgery at 1,850 crowns ($68). That is what the whole team involved in the surgery received in compensation.

Pasko pointed out that had Havel taken his car to a garage for repairs, he would have been charged 1,400 crowns ($58) an hour.