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Silvio Berlusconi: Italian ex-PM in hospital with leukaemia

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The Local/AFP ([email protected])
Silvio Berlusconi: Italian ex-PM in hospital with leukaemia
The San Raffaele Hospital in Milan, where former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was admitted on Wednesday. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

Italian former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is currently in intensive care, is suffering from leukaemia and a lung infection, doctors said on Thursday.

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The 86-year-old media mogul and senator, who has been in and out of hospital in recent years, was admitted on Wednesday to the intensive care cardiac unit at Milan's San Raffaele Hospital after suffering respiratory problems.

"Berlusconi is currently hospitalised in intensive care for treatment of a lung infection" and suffers from "chronic myelomonocytic leukaemia", a rare type of blood cancer, doctors said in a statement.

READ ALSO: Former Italian PM Berlusconi in intensive care in hospital

The magnate - a controversial, larger-than-life figure who elicits either admiration or disdain from Italians - has been dubbed "the immortal" for his longevity in politics.

He is currently a senator and leader of the right-wing Forza Italia party.

Chronic myelomonocytic leukaemia (CMML), which affects mainly older adults, starts in blood-forming cells of the bone marrow and goes on to invade the blood.

Berlusconi's cancer was in a "persistent chronic phase" and had not yet turned into "acute leukaemia", wrote doctors Alberto Zangrillo, the ex-premier's personal doctor, and Fabio Ciceri, the heads of San Raffaele's cardiac intensive care and haemotology units, respectively.

Reporters at Milan’s San Raffaele Hospital after Silvio Berlusconi was admitted to intensive care. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

As close family members arrived at the hospital for visits, Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said he had spoken to Zangrillo, who had told him "his condition is stable".

"We're all very worried," Deputy Culture Minister Vittorio Sgarbi, Berlusconi's close friend, said Thursday.

"I hope he has the strength in him to resist this latest attack, which now has a sinister name, leukaemia."

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He also said Berlusconi was feeling well enough to be making phone calls.

The leader of the right-wing Forza Italia party, Berlusconi spent four days last month at the same hospital for what Italian news reports called heart issues, before being discharged on March 30th.

After dominating Italian politics for two decades, Berlusconi now appears visibly diminished on the rare occasions he is seen in public.

Former Italian prime minister and media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi, now 86, has been admitted to the San Raffaele hospital in Milan numerous times in recent years. (Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP)

Berlusconi was in hospital for 11 days for Covid-related pneumonia in September 2020, after contracting the virus while on holiday in Sardinia, describing it as "perhaps the most difficult ordeal of my life."

The following year he was admitted several times for complications stemming from Covid.

Berlusconi had open heart surgery in 2016 and surgery on his intestine three years later.

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His Forza Italia party is part of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's coalition, but he does not have a role in government.

"Sincere and affectionate wishes for a speedy recovery to Silvio Berlusconi," Meloni wrote on Twitter, adding: "Forza Silvio (Come on Silvio)."

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