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Sometime in April, roughly three months after taking a medical leave of absence from the Apple CEO post, Steve Jobs received a liver transplant.

News of the two-month-old transplant broke late Friday evening, at the end of a day when Apple released the latest incarnation of its worldwide status symbol, the iPhone 3G S.

As reported by The Wall Street Journal, Jobs is recovering well and will return to work by the end of the month. His participation in Apple's affairs, however, could be only on a part-time basis.

In August 2004, Jobs announced he had undergone surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from his pancreas. Since then, the health of the Apple co-founder has been an endless source of speculation.

In mid-2008, when he turned up at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference in July to unveil the first 3G iPhone, he was noticeably thinner than usual, and after days of questions from the press and blogosphere, The New York Times reported Jobs had "assured several people" he was cancer free.

Then, on January 5, Jobs assured the world he had a "hormonal imbalance" that was "relatively simple and straightforward" to treat. But just nine days later, he announced a six-month leave of absence, saying he needed to focus on health issues that were "more complex" than he first thought.

Along the way, Jobs was widely criticized for not revealing the full extent of his health problems to Apple shareholders. Unlike the average CEO, Jobs is viewed as an essential driving force behind the company's cult-like success, and Apple's share price tends to rise and fall according to the latest speculation on his health. One Friday morning in October, Apple shares fell as much as 5.4 per cent after a so-called citizen journalist erroneously reported that the Apple CEO has suffered a major heart attack.

Apple is famously tight-lipped about, well, just about everything, and chances are, it's no accident that news of Jobs' liver transplant arrived after the market had closed for the weekend, at the sleepiest point in the weekly news cycle, on a day when Apple had re-exerted its hold on the smartphone market.

Quoting a doctor who has not treated Jobs, The Wall Street Journal said that the type of pancreatic tumor Jobs had - known as an islet cell neuroendocrine tumor - will often metastasize in another organ, usually the liver. "All total, 75% of patients are going to have the disease spread over the course of their life," the doctor said.

Livers are hard to come by, and according to The Journal, Jobs had his transplant in Tennessee, where the waiting list is shorter than in most US states. The United Network for Organ Sharing says that the average wait time is 306 days, as opposed to only 48 days in Tennessee.

An unnamed source speaking with The Journal said that Jobs may be encouraged by his doctors to "work part-time for a month or two." This may mean Apple COO Tim Cook taking on "a more encompassing role." The source also said that Cook may soon be appointed to the Apple board. ®

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