Sunday, May 26

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin Was Hospitalized After Prostate Cancer Surgery

The Pentagon has said that because Mr. Austin’s chief of staff, Kelly E. Magsamen, was ill last week, she was unable to make notifications until Thursday. At that time, Ms. Magsamen informed Kathleen Hicks, the deputy defense secretary, and Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security adviser, about Mr. Austin’s hospitalization, according to Maj. Gen. Patrick S. Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary.

It was unclear why another top Pentagon aide did not make the notifications earlier in the week.

In the statement, the Walter Reed doctors said that Mr. Austin’s health screenings last year had shown changes in the antigens that are used to identify prostate cancer. “Changes in his laboratory evaluation in early December 2023 identified prostate cancer, which required treatment,” the doctors said in the statement.

Mr. Austin was admitted to Walter Reed on Dec. 22, the statement said, where he underwent the prostatectomy “to treat and cure prostate cancer.”

After Mr. Austin returned to the hospital on New Year’s Day, doctors found a urinary tract infection, Walter Reed said, and on Jan. 2 they decided to transfer him to the intensive care unit “for close monitoring and a higher level of care.” The doctors found collections of abdominal fluid that they said were impairing the function of his small intestines, and drained them.

Prostate cancer is a fairly common cancer in men and is the second leading cause of cancer death among American men. But the disease usually progresses slowly.

“Prostate cancer is eminently treatable, and I hope he’ll continue to serve,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut. But, he added, “I regret deeply this delay in providing an explanation.”

Karoun Demirjian and Peter Baker contributed reporting.