- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 18, 2003

TOKYO, Jan. 19 (UPI) — Japanese Emperor Akihito underwent successful surgery on Saturday to remove his cancerous prostate gland, said doctors at Tokyo University Hospital.

The operation was carried out by a team of six physicians, three from the hospital and three from the National Cancer Center. It lasted three hours and 40 minutes, said Ichiro Kanazawa, medical supervisor of the Imperial Household Agency.

Kanazawa told reporters that "the operation went smoothly and as scheduled." Stocks of the 69-year-old emperor's blood were used for transfusions.

"His Majesty recovered from the anesthetic and could even exchange a few words with Her Highness the Empress Michiko and the Royal Highness Princess Sayako," said Kanazawa.

A second doctor, Tadao Kakizoe, confirmed the cancer appeared not to have spread beyond the prostate. The medical team will conduct a biopsy examination on tissue samples taken after the gland was removed, and will release the results in about one week.

Kakizoe, president of the National Cancer Center, confided the team had been concerned about possible adhesion between the emperor's prostate gland and rectum, but encountered no such difficulty.

The emperor is expected to stay in the hospital for about a month to recover. Meanwhile, Crown Prince Naruhito will continue some of the palace duties he assumed after the emperor checked into the hospital on Thursday.

As a demonstration of sympathy and support, about 7,000 people came to the Imperial Palace Saturday to register their names and best wishes for the emperor, the Imperial Household Agency reported.

The emperor was born Akihito Tsugonimaya in 1933, and officially declared heir to the throne in 1952. Akihito became Japan's head of state in 1989. His first son and heir Naruhito was born in 1960.

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