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Venezuela's Chavez says he expects to undergo chemotherapy or radiation treatment
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) ' Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Wednesday that he expects to undergo chemotherapy or radiation treatment once he recovers from his cancer surgery.
Chavez said he is now starting a second phase of treatment and expects a third phase "that could be a bit hard, which is to try to armor the body against these malignant cells."
"It would most likely require the use of methods that are known ... depending on the evolution and these follow-up diagnoses, but it could be radiation therapy or chemotherapy," Chavez told state television in a phone call.
Chavez said such treatment would be to "attack hard, with cavalry, any possibility, anything latent that might be there." He did not say how soon such treatment might begin.
Chavez has said he underwent surgery in Cuba on June 20 to remove a cancerous tumor from his pelvic region. He hasn't said what type of cancer is involved.
Chavez's account on Wednesday was the first time he has referred to expecting to undergo chemotherapy or radiation treatment. He also provided new details about the surgery in Cuba.
He said it was a major operation that lasted about six hours and removed a tumor that was "encapsulated."
"I had a big, big tumor," Chavez said. "When I saw that image, I said, 'My God, it's a baseball.'"
Since his return to Caracas on July 4, the 56-year-old president has slowed his normally heavy agenda and has limited the length of his televised speeches, saying he is under strict orders from his doctors.
Chavez said Wednesday that he is recovering well, and suggested some of his foes hope he does not.
"I have cancer, but not in the way some would want," Chavez said.
Without specifying where the cancer was detected, Chavez denied that his colon been cut as part of the operation. He said his treatment so far has turned out well, "thanks to God and to medical science, and to this body, which seems tougher than what I myself believed."
The president attended Mass on Tuesday night, joining friends and aides in praying for his recovery.
Chavez, who is up for re-election in late 2012, has been actively posting messages on Twitter and has appeared on television in the past several days addressing troops, doing stretching exercises with aides and leading a Cabinet meeting.
Chavez, a former army paratroop commander, said his rehabilitation regime has required discipline, including waking up at 5 a.m. That is a significant change for a president who used to speak regularly late into the night while drinking cup after cup of coffee.
Chavez says his doctors have advised him to limit the length of his televised speeches, and he has kept his appearances much shorter than the hours-long events of the past.
At Tuesday's Mass in Caracas' Military Academy, Chavez led a brief prayer and then closed his eyes as he listened to a priest speak. The priest, Mario Moronta, said he would administer the sacrament of anointing the sick to Chavez.
"Oftentimes, when one goes to a house where there is a sick person or to a hospital, many people get scared because it used to be called extreme unction, when there was nothing more to be done," the priest said. But he added that the sacrament is now seen as being "for the sick or elderly person to have strength ... to beat the illness."
Moronta, who is a friend of Chavez, explained the sacrament saying he would apply "the oil of strength" to the president.
"There is no need to be afraid. Six years ago they did it to me twice. I was more there than here, and look where I am," Moronta said. "Sometimes I myself have seen people who have stood up from their sick bed in a moment of difficulty because it's celebrated with faith."
He made a cross in oil on Chavez's forehead. Visibly moved, the president put his palms together and hugged the priest.
Chavez was once an altar boy, but has clashed in recent years with some Roman Catholic leaders in Venezuela, accusing them of lying about his government. Nevertheless, he says he remains a Christian and believes Jesus stood for principles similar to those of socialism.
Chavez also said in separate remarks to state television on Tuesday that he intends to remain in the presidency and accelerate his drive for socialism in Venezuela.