Venezuela President Hugo Chávez is now battling bone metastasis from his pelvic cancer, according to a report by Spanish newspaper ABC. Citing an unnamed intelligence source, ABC's Washington correspondent Emil J. Blasco says there has been a recurrence and spread of the tumor, which was detected in a test performed on a trip to Havana just after the elections on October 7.
Blasco said the metastasis is causing Chavez “severe pain in the left femur and serious walking difficulties." He also says that Chavez passed out twice in August, losing consciousness briefly, and that doctors determined that his situation was deteriorating slowly but steadily.
Chavez last appeared publicly during a televised meeting on Nov. 15, prompting some critics to publicly wonder where he went after his election win.
During the electoral campaign, he repeatedly dismissed rumors that he had not been cured of his cancer, and vowed to serve out his six-year term.
The treatment that Chavez is said to be undergoing in Havana involves breathing pure oxygen while in a pressurized, sealed chamber. Its value is well-established for treating burns, carbon monoxide poisoning and some other medical conditions, and to aid wound healing and help repair bone and tissue damaged by radiation treatments.
However, the American Cancer Society says there is no evidence the treatment can cure cancer. And Blasco notes that if hyperbaric oxygen treatment were the case, Chavez could have stayed in Venezuela, since the country boasts of having the latest technology on this kind of equipment (his brother Adam presented a "next generation" of those chambers in 2009 as governor of Barinas state).
Also, a hyperbaric chamber is a portable device that could be installed in the special clinic Chavez has at his home in La Orchila.
The 58-year-old president first underwent cancer treatment in Cuba in June 2011 and suffered a relapse in February. He has since said he's recovered from the pelvic cancer and won re-election in October.
Throughout his previous chemotherapy and radiation treatments, Chavez kept many details of his illness secret, including the type of cancer and the precise location of the tumors.
Cuba's official newspaper Granma said that Chavez arrived on the island Tuesday at the break of dawn, "in order to continue medical treatment following as part of strengthening their health, which will include several sessions oxygenation hyperbaric."
There were no photos of his arrival in Havana or departure from Caracas, unlike other times he's made the trip.
Venezuelan officials did not say how long he will stay in Havana, though they said he would be back by Jan. 10, when he is being sworn in for a fourth term.
With additional reporting by The Associated Press.