"The doctors say he had a localized prostate cancer," spokesman Richard Boucher said. "The surgery took approximately two hours. They say he did extremely well."
Powell, 66, was aware of the problem for months, notified President Bush two weeks ago and scheduled the operation for the holiday season, when U.S. diplomacy generally moves into lower gear.
He will remain at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where as a retired Army general he was treated, and will then go home to McLean, Va., to recuperate further. But before long, Boucher said with a smile, Powell is certain to be sending out directives to his staff by e-mail.
In fact, Powell telephoned Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage on his way to Walter Reed and conferred by telephone Sunday with 23 foreign ministers, mostly about the capture of fallen Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
"There are no complications, and a full recovery is expected," Boucher said.
Still, Powell will be on what the State Department described as a reduced schedule for some time.
While Powell had no foreign trips planned at least until the new year, the international scene continued to bubble with serious problems.
Despite Saddam's capture, American oversight of postwar Iraq remains troubled by violent resistance, limited international support and questionable Iraqi security. Talks designed to end North Korea's nuclear weapons program are delayed. Peacemaking in the Middle East remains at a standstill.
Also, America's relations with some of its closest allies have been shaken by a Pentagon decision to limit contracts for rebuilding Iraq to companies in countries that supported the U.S.-led war.
About 190,000 cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed in the United States every year, and about 30,000 men died of the disease in 2002, according to American Cancer Society statistics. It is the most common cancer in American men and their second-leading cause of cancer death after lung cancer.
About 180,000 men underwent treatment for prostate cancer in 2001, according to the National Institutes of Health. Roughly 30,000 died from the disease that year.
Prostate cancer is the third deadliest cancer for Americans. Lung, breast and colorectal cancers kill more people overall. An American man has a 30 percent chance of getting prostate cancer, but only a 3 percent risk of dying from it, according to the Mayo clinic.
"If a man lives long enough, it's very likely that there will be some prostate cancer found," said CBS News Early Show Health Correspondent Dr. Emily Senay.
In recent years, prominent prostate cancer sufferers have included then New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, U.S. Sen. and Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, FBI Director Robert Mueller, New York Yankees manager Joe Torre and former Sen. Bob Dole, the 1996 Republican presidential nominee.
Black men, such as Powell, have the highest rates of prostate cancer, and while death rates have been in decline for a decade, the rate is still twice as high for blacks as for whites.
"I think if there is any single one message to come out of the Secretary of State's story, it's that African-American men are at a higher risk, 60 percent higher risk," said Senay. "They need to consider screening and family history earlier probably than Caucasian men."
Dr. Brantley Thrasher, professor of urology at the University of Kansas, said Powell appeared to have an "excellent chance for cure."
Thrasher, in an interview, said it was not clear why blacks have such high rates of prostate cancer. One reason, he said, could be that they generally do not have as much access as whites to health care.
"Hopefully, a high-profile person like Powell will raise awareness," Thrasher said by telephone.
Powell is a retired full general who held the top military position, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, from 1989 to 1993. He held that position during the Persian Gulf War.
He has been President Bush's secretary of state from the outset but is considered unlikely to buck tradition and serve in a second term, should Mr. Bush win re-election.
In the post, Powell basically has been in synch with the president and Bush's other senior advisers, although he is inclined more to a middle-of-the-road position than some who have deeply conservative outlooks.
He is credited with winning international support for a U.N. resolution last year that led to the return of weapons inspectors to Iraq. He ultimately was unable to win a second resolution in support of the U.S.-led invasion, despite a passionate presentation to the United Nations on allegations that Saddam had amassed potent, secret caches of weapons of mass destruction.