The tumor, in the right parietal lobe, is not cancerous but has caused him seizures and falls, and “everything indicates an operation is needed,” his personal physician, Eduardo Reyes, told AFP.
Noriega, who had previously worked with the CIA, ruled over Panama from 1983 until the US military invaded on December 20, 1989 and captured him.
First imprisoned in America on drug trafficking and money laundering charges, he was sent to France in 2010 and spent 13 months incarcerated there on similar charges before being extradited to Panama, where he is serving a 20-year sentence for the murder of opposition activists.
Today aged 82, his family and lawyer say he suffers ill-health of which the tumor is the most urgent problem.
The abnormal growth was first detected by a scan in 2012 and has now become of a size that it “could cause major deterioration to speech and motor areas” of the brain” through “irreversible damage,” his attorney, Ezra Angel, said.
“The doctors recommend it be removed otherwise his state of health will continue to further deteriorate,” said one of his three daughters, Thays Noriega.
“If they don’t operate, we will be giving him a death sentence,” she told AFP.
She said that El Renacer penitentiary where her father was locked up was not following the recommendations of the family’s private doctors.
The family have tried in vain several times to have Noriega see out the rest of his sentence under home detention, saying he has suffered strokes, respiratory problems, prostate cancer and depression.
They said they will lodge a new request because of the tumor.