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Argentina: President Cristina Fernández’ Controversial Cancer Diagnosis

On December 27, 2011, the Casa Rosada revealed that Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was suffering from a papillary thyroid carcinoma in the right lobe of her thyroid gland. The cancerous growth had been detected during a routine checkup on December 22.

During the following days, the most important newspapers reported [es] on this subject (many of whom made it a headline) and explained [es] that the operation would take place on January 4, 2012; a day after, vice president Amado Boudou would act as President for the following 20 days.

Headline of Argentine newspaper La Nación on December 28, 2011,"The President will have an operation for thyroid cancer."

Many users reacted to the news on social networks by showing their affection for the President and wishing for her recovery using the hashtag #FuerzaCristina [es] (Be Strong Christina), which quickly turned into a trending topic on Twitter. Also, hours after the operation, a group of active Kirchner supporters gathered in front of the Austral Hospital, where the operation was scheduled to take place, as reported by the daily La Nación [es].

Journalist Florencia Etcheves (@fetchevestweeted [es] in response to this movement:

Me parece un delirio la vigilia, pero deseo q esto que le pasa a la Presidenta sea sólo un mal momento y que pase rápido #FuerzaCristina

This vigil seems mental to me, but I wish that this is but a bad moment for the president and that it will blow over soon

User Nicolás Aboaf (@nicodebrandsen) said [es]:

Sea cual sea tu identidad política, es nuestra Presidenta… #FuerzaCristina.

Whatever her political identity, she's still our President

On the other hand, quite a number of political officials including those of the opposition expressed their support for the President via Twitter. National Deputy Fernando Iglesias (@feriglesias), from the Coalición Cívica (Civic Coalition), said [es]:

Le deseo a la Señora Presidenta una pronta recuperación. Al país, también.

I wish our Madame President a speedy recovery. The country too

Presidential candidate, Hermes Binner (@HermesBinner), said [es] on his Twitter account:

Pronta recuperación de la Sra. Presidenta es nuestro deseo.

A quick recovery is what we wish for you, Madame President

On January 4, as planned, the surgical intervention of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner took place in the Austral Hospital. During the following days, post-operation procedures were published on the President's official Twitter account (1, 2, 3, 4) [es]. These medical reports were also read in front of groups of journalists and militants by the presidential spokesperson, Alfredo Scoccimarro, announcing the success of the operation. The next day, Ámbito Financiero published [es] in their online version:

Cristina de Kirchner fue operada ayer en una clínica de Pilar de un carcinoma en la tiroides, en una intervención que los médicos responsables calificaron de exitosa. La Presidente ingresó al hospital a primera hora de la mañana y fue internada para los preparativos de la operación, que comenzó a las 8 y se prolongó durante tres horas y media. [...] En ese piso hubo sólo médicos, asistentes y algunos familiares (hijos, cuñada). En un segundo círculo se movieron el secretario presidencial, Oscar Parrilli, y el vocero Alfredo Scoccimarro, quien cerca del mediodía dio un informe de los médicos en el que se detallaba que se le había extirpado la glándula tiroides, que la mandataria se había recuperado de la anestesia y que la intervención podía considerarse un éxito.

Cristina de Kirchner was operated in a Pilar clinic specialised in carcinomas of the thyroid, in an intervention that the doctors declared a success. The president was admitted in the first hours of the morning and was stabilised in preparation for the operation, which commenced at 8 and lasted 3 and a half hours. [...] On that floor there were solely doctors, assistants and some relatives (her children and her sister in law). In a second circle there were presidential secretary Oscar Parrilli and the spokesperson Alfredo  Scoccimarro, who at about midday gave a report from the doctors detailing the removal of the thyroid gland, the recuperation of the Head of state from the anaesthesia and that the surgery was deemed a success.

Senator Anibal Fernández (@fernandezanibal), among other political figures, tweeted (1, 2) [es]:

Gracias a Dios, concluyó sin complicación alguna la intervención quirúrgica que se realizó en el Hospital Austral a @CFKArgentina

Thank God, @CFKArgentina's surgery concluded with no complications at the Austral Hospital

La Presidenta ya está despierta y la atienden en el área de atención general del Hospital Austral.

The President woke up and is being attended to under observation at Austral Hospital

Finally, on January 7, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner thanked (1, 2) [es] the people for their well wishes:

Ya desde Olivos, agradecemos a todas las personas, ciudadanos, militantes y personalidades, por las muestras de afecto y preocupación.

Right now from Olivos, we would like to thank everyone, citizens, supporters and personalities, for their well wishes and concern

Agradecemos a Dios y a todo el pueblo argentino por las bendiciones recibidas…

We thank God and all the people of Argentina for the blessings received…

Controversy

However, the same day, Argentine daily Perfil reported [es] that the last part of the submitted medical report of the procedure unexpectedly changed the diagnosis of the President: it no longer mentioned a papillary carcinoma, but rather a follicular adenomas, a benign tumor.

Se esperaba un alta médico, pero no un cambio en el diagnóstico. [...] En su lugar, el informe de los médicos del Hospital Austral de Pilar leído por el vocero presidencial, Alfredo Scoccimarro, hablaba de “adenomas foliculares”.

“El adenoma puede estar en cualquier órgano, es un tumor benigno. Uno de los más comunes son los que se encuentran en una mama (en el caso de la mujer) o en la próstata (en el hombre)”.

A medical record was expected, but not a change in the diagnosis. [...] Instead, the medical report from the doctors at the Pilar Austral Hospital, read by the presidential spokesperson, Alfredo Scoccimarro, spoke of “follicular adenomas”.

“An adenoma can appear in any organ, and is a benign tumour. One of the most common are the ones that appear in the mammary glands (in the case of women) and the prostate (in the case of men)

La Nación published [es] a medical testimony from an anonymous source about the change of the diagnosis:

“Fue un falso positivo”, resumió a LA NACION una fuente muy cercana al equipo médico de Cristina Kirchner. [...] ”Esto sucede en un porcentaje mínimo de pacientes y, en este caso, le sucedió a la Presidenta, pero fueron cuatro y no sólo uno los especialistas que coincidieron en que la punción era compatible con un carcinoma papilar”, sostuvo la fuente.

It was a “false positive”, as a LA NACION source very close to Cristina Fernandez’ medical team summed it up. [...] “This happens in the minimum percentage of patients, and in this case, it happened to the President, but there were four, not just one specialist who agreed that the symptoms were conclusive to a papillary carcinoma”, the source maintained

Jorge Carrascosa, the director of the Maipú Diagnostic Centre explained [es] that this was the first case of a “false positive” in the entire history of the establishment, since 1983. Similarly, because of this turn in the President's diagnosis, netizens reacted with all kinds of comments. Google+ user Ana Inés Hermida, commented [es]:

[...] inventar un cáncer, nada menos. [...] Mientras tanto, el hospital cancelaba turnos de gente para quimio en serio.

Inventing a cancer, no less. [...] Due to all this, the hospital cancelled people's appointments who seriously needed chemo.

On the same note, in La Nación user Charlot stated [es] her opinion by saying:

Con o sin cáncer todo esto fue un circo. Y una falta de respeto total para con las personas internadas en el Hospital Austral.

Cancer or not, this was a total fiasco. And a lack of total respect for patients at the Austral Hospital.

In view of the controversy, the Austral Hospital expressed its stance about the faulty diagnosis, explaining [es] that the results of the exam on December 22 were not sufficiently detailed, and that the original report was yet to be changed.

Upon final inspection, Twitter user Jorge Asís (@CayetanoAsis) tweeted [es]:

Salud, comunicadores oncólogos. Que Cristina no tiene cáncer no puede convertirse en una noticia más impactante que el anuncio de tenerlo.

Cheers, oncologist-journalists. That Cristina doesn't have cancer can't be more shocking news than the announcement that she had [cancer].

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