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The 81-year-old chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. said in a letter to investors on Tuesday that he has stage 1 cancer, an early form of the disease that is treatable.
"The good news is that I've been told by my doctors that my condition is not remotely life- threatening or even debilitating in any meaningful way," Buffett said.
After receiving the diagnosis last Wednesday, Buffett said he had other tests that "showed no incidence of cancer elsewhere in my body."
In his letter, Buffett said he expects to begin two months of daily radiation treatment in mid-July. It will restrict his travel, "but will not otherwise change my daily routine."
He added that, "I discovered the cancer because my PSA level [an indicator my doctors had regularly checked for many years] recently jumped beyond its normal elevation and a biopsy seemed warranted."
Experts noted that prostate cancer that is caught at stage 1, when it is localized to the prostate, is highly curable. According to the American Cancer Society, four of five prostate cancers are caught at stages 1 or 2, and the overall 10-year survival rate for men diagnosed with prostate cancer is 98 percent. About 242,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer in the United States each year, and about 28,000 die from the disease annually.
"Many patients can be cured if their prostate cancer has not spread," the U.S. National Cancer Institute noted on its website, and even "some patients whose cancer has not spread very much outside the prostate gland can also be cured."
Typical treatments include surgical removal of the tumor, hormone-depletion therapy (male hormones are thought to act as "fuel" for prostate tumors) and radiation treatments.
If the tumor is deemed to be slow-growing, based on changes in levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA), doctors often advise forgoing treatment and doing "watchful waiting" instead.
Speaking to msnbc.com, Dr. Christopher Kane, chief of urology at the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine, said that the fact Buffett is at stage 1 "implies the cancer is confined to the prostate, or that there is a low risk for metastases [spread] to other parts of the body."
In his letter to investors, Buffett noted that his condition at the present time is good. "I feel great -- as if I were in my normal excellent health -- and my energy level is 100 percent," he said.
-- E.J. Mundell
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