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Common Brain Cancer Kills Sen. Ted Kennedy, 77

Posted by Jane Akre
Wednesday, August 26, 2009 12:00 PM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Brain Cancer, MRI, Chemotherapy, Radiation, Sen. Ted Kennedy, Malignant Glioma

Sen. Edward Kennedy


IMAGE SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons/ official portrait of Sen. Ted Kennedy/ source: Kennedy, Senate

Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts died Tuesday night at his Cape Code home after struggling with brain cancer for almost a year. He was 77.

An outpouring of superlatives came from both sides of the aisle as Kennedy was able to reach across to Republicans to create social programs for the poor and low-income children, and make health insurance and medicines available for rare diseases available.

The “Lion of the Senate,” also played major roles in the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act and the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act.

President Obama eulogized Kennedy as one of the “most accomplished Americans” in history – a man whose work in Congress helped give millions new opportunities.

His death occurred one year, almost to the hour, after his appearance at the Democratic National Convention where he spoke about health care as the cause of his life.

Brain Cancer

Kennedy was the only of four brothers to reach old age and die of natural causes.

He received a diagnosis of a cancerous brain tumor in May 2008, after suffering a seizure at his Cape Cod home.

Kennedy went on to defy the odds, living more than a year while doctors treated the malignant glioma in his left parietal lobe, above and behind the left ear.

That portion of the brain controls spatial awareness on the right side of the body as well as language, mathematical calculation, and reading.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that most malignant glimoas are caused by haywire genes in cells that support and insulate neurons, nerve cells that allow the brain to work. The cause is unknown. Doctors did not reveal which types of cancerous cells were in the biopsy of Kennedy’s brain.

Duke University Medical Center surgeons removed as much of the tumor as possible the following month, reports CNN.

The Mayo Clinic uses 3-D computer models to help neurosurgeons plan the safest way to the brain tumor if surgery is an option. They key to brain surgery is avoiding neurologic injury to the key areas of the brain. Kennedy then went on to have radiation and chemotherapy.

According to the National Cancer Institute, malignant gliomas are the most common primary brain tumor, responsible for about one-third of all brain tumors. 20,000 cases of brain cancer were diagnosed in 2008, with 14 percent in the parietal lobe.

The majority of these cases occur in patients over the age of 55 and the incidence goes up with age. About 13,000 patients with these cancers die, according to the American Cancer Society.

Gliomas are uncommon in children. Seizures are a common symptom of gliomas, as are headache, nausea, and vomiting.

According to the National Cancer Institute, survival depends on the grade of the tumor but is generally poor. Divided into four grades, a grade III malignant glioma survival rate is three to five years.

The more aggressive form, a grade IV or glioblastoma multiforme, has a survival rate of less than one year. Adding the drug, temozolomide, to radiation therapy increases median survival by about two months, according to the National Cancer Institute.

CNN reports that malignant gliomas are very resilient to treatment, that’s why surgery is combined with radiation and/or chemotherapy.

The chance of developing a malignant tumor of the brain or spinal cord in a lifetime is less than one percent.

Kennedy was last seen arriving at the home of his sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, on August 11, the day of her funeral, which Kennedy did not attend.

Cancer runs in the Kennedy family.

Son, Edward Jr. lost a leg to bone cancer in 1973. Daughter, Kara had a cancerous tumor removed from her lung in 2003, reports Associated Press. Another son, Patrick, had a noncancerous tumor on his spine removed. #

1 Comment

Anonymous User
Posted by Paul Lane
Thursday, September 17, 2009 7:39 PM EST

My name is Paul Lane. I have just completed my first book entitled "Through A Caretaker's Eyes" It is about my experience with my wife's malignant glioma brain tumor called a glioblastoma multiforme. She survived 22 months and 11 days before she passed away. We were married for 28 years. I believe this book will be a tremendous help for anyone facing the possibility of becoming a caretaker or those who know someone who is. I have included a section on etiquette, that is very comprehensive and useful. If you are interested in ordering a copy of this powerful book, please call (720) 233-6262 or email me at laneman09@comcast.net to have a copy sent to you. The cost is $16.99 + shipping. Thank you very much!
Paul Lane

Comments for this article are closed.

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