A senior member of Japan’s royal family has been given the all-clear after undergoing surgery to remove breast cancer tissue earlier this month.
Empress Emerita Michiko, 84, received the good news on Friday, less than three months after her doctors identified a lump in her left breast in July.
The Empress is said to have opted against follow-up radiation therapy as the cells found in her chest had not metastasised, or moved to other parts of her body, meaning the disease is unlikely to return.
The Empress’ cancer battle
Grandmother-of-four Emerita Michiko was officially diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer in August before having surgery at the University of Tokyo Hospital on September 8, national broadcaster NHK said.
The four-hour procedure to remove about 1cm of cancerous tissue from her left breast was deemed a complete success according to NHK.
Following the Empress’ surgery, her husband of 60 years, Emperor Emeritus Akihito thanked the head of the hospital and the doctors who operated on his wife.
Emeritus Akihito, 85, reportedly visited the hospital multiple times to check on the Empress, before she was discharged two days later.
It is believed to be Emerita Michiko’s first hospital stay since she underwent treatment for shingles in 1997 while her husband has had treatment for prostate cancer and heart surgery.
Who is Empress Emerita Michiko?
Empress Emerita Michiko was born on October 20, 1934, to a wealthy upper-class family. She met Emeritus Akihito, then-Crown Prince Akihito, on a tennis court in August 1957 and they were engaged just over a year later.
The pair were wed in a traditional Shinto ceremony on April 10, 1959, making Emerita Michiko - who became known affectionately as ‘Mitchi’ to her people - the first commoner to marry into Japan’s royal family.
Theirs was also the first wedding to be televised, with more than 15 million viewers tuning in. It marked the beginning of a new era of transparency, modernization and diplomacy for the Japanese Imperial Family.
Mitchi also had to renounce her Roman Catholic faith and adopt her husband’s Shinto belief before tying the knot.
The couple shares three children and after three decades as Japan's heads of state, Akihito and Michiko abdicated in April 2019, handing the throne over to their son, Naruhito.
Additional reporting by Naomi Tajitsu and Michael Perry, Reuters.
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