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Brain Cancer Health Center

Sen. Ted Kennedy Has Brain Cancer

Doctors Diagnose Kennedy With Malignant Brain Tumor
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The newer treatments available include oral chemotherapy. Oftentimes, the oral chemotherapy is combined with the radiation treatments over six weeks and people tolerate it well. Hopefully, he'll be released from the hospital soon and be able to begin his treatment as an outpatient.

You mentioned surgery. What kind of surgery would that be?

Typically surgery can be a biopsy alone to identify and document the specific type of tumor and prove that it is a tumor. A biopsy alone is done if the tumor is located either deep in the brain or in an area where removing tissue could cause neurological impairment [brain damage]. Apparently, this may have been on the left side of his brain, where speech function is located. So that may have been the reason why they chose to do a biopsy rather than what we call a craniotomy, with tumor removal. If the tumor is in an area that can be operated on, sometimes a larger surgical procedure is done to remove as much tumor as possible. The limiting factor is the location in the brain.

What is the left parietal lobe involved in?

The left parietal lobe does control speech and various parts of language so that the decision needs to be made by the neurosurgeon of what type of surgical procedure is the safest.

Are radiation and chemotherapy standard?

Very standard. Even if it is located in an area that can be operated on more extensively, we know we cannot remove all of the tumor because it is what we call an infiltrating tumor. We talk about rootlets or tentacles of tumor that grow into the brain, almost like fingers. ... We don't [expect] to be able to remove all of it surgically, so we really rely on ... radiation and chemotherapy.

What is the prognosis for this sort of condition?

Well, it is a serious tumor. Patients tolerate the radiation and chemotherapy well, and we have many patients that have responded well to this combination of treatment. I think that's how we usually describe the prognosis -- it's a wait-and-see type of tumor where we have to see how well he responds to additional treatment.

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