Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, addresses the Hinckley Institute of Politics regarding the state of the 2016 presidential race during a speech at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Thursday, March 3, 2016.

SALT LAKE CITY — Mitt Romney was treated for prostate cancer last year, according to an aide to the likely candidate for the Utah seat in the U.S. Senate now held by retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch.

"Last year, Gov. Mitt Romney was diagnosed with slow-growing prostate cancer. The cancer was removed surgically and found not to have spread beyond the prostate," the aide said in a statement to the Deseret News.

Romney, 70, was treated over the summer, according to a source cited by The Washington Post. That source also told the Post that Romney was treated surgically by a doctor at UC Irvine Hospital in California.

"His prognosis is very good. He was treated successfully," the Post quoted the source as saying.

Romney is expected to announce whether he will run for the Senate as soon as next week. He is widely viewed as a likely candidate after Hatch decided he will not seek re-election this year to an eighth term.

Jason Perry, head of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics, said he sees a "high likelihood" that Romney is running, and the news about his health shouldn't have any negative effect on the race.

"In fact, I think it's just a positive for Mitt Romney. Get that out on your own terms and put it to rest. He's already an amazingly popular candidate. If he decides to run, nothing's going to hurt him in terms of announcements like that," Perry said.

He said the timing of the news is telling.

"Many people are speculating about that. The truth is, he said, 'I had it. I'm fine.' So really, the big story there is not that it happened but that he's getting it out now," Perry said. "That really is one of the signs that he's getting ready to have an announcement."

When Romney was the Republican nominee for president in 2012, his personal physician described him as an "energetic, strong, physically fit" man who looks younger than he is and "takes excellent care of his personal physical health."

Also noted in a 2012 letter from Dr. Randall D. Gaz, a Boston-based physician who had been Romney's doctor since 1989, was a family history of prostate cancer, as well as cardiac arrhythmias and heart attack.

Gaz concluded in the letter that the former Massachusetts governor and leader of the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City had "no physical impairments that should interfere with his rigorous and demanding political career."

Romney has stayed largely quiet about the Senate race, waiting for Hatch to make his decision. The senator announced a week ago he would retire at the end of his term, after serving 42 years in office.

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President Donald Trump had publicly urged Hatch to run again this year when he spoke at the Utah Capitol in December about shrinking the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments.

Romney, one of Trump's harshest critics, talked to the president about the race last week in a conversation viewed as recognizing Romney is likely to be Utah's next senator.

He is the keynote speaker at the Utah Economic Outlook and Policy Summit on Jan. 16, put on by the Salt Lake Chamber. The event, already sold out, may be an opportunity for Romney to declare his political intentions.

Contributing: Dennis Romboy