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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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How rare is this type of tumor?

Every year in the United States, there are about 18,000 new primary brain tumors, and over half of those tumors are some type of malignant glioma.

Do you think he may have had this for a while? How quickly do these develop?

That's a question that most people usually ask and we don't know. I think for some patients, it's very active or aggressive from the very beginning, and so they can grow very quickly, probably over weeks to months, and that's probably his type. Others start as a less active tumor and then over time become more active, and those can be present for a longer period of time. It sounds like his symptoms developed rather recently, and that suggests to us that it probably has not been there very long.

The doctors mentioned other tests and analyses. What types of additional tests would the doctors be doing?

I suspect they may be doing some more specialized pathologic studies on the [biopsy].

Is that a tumor grade or staging?

They may try to set tumor grade. This is not a tumor that tends to metastasize [spread] outside of the nervous system, so we don't typically stage it like we do other tumors that can spread to lymph nodes or to other organs in the body. But we do oftentimes a grading of the tumor cells to see how active or aggressive the tumors would be. That may be what they're working on with special staining and special tests from the neuropathologists. There are also some newer, what I would say investigational, studies looking at the pathology to try to determine what types of treatment might be appropriate for him, more specific types of treatment.

After the treatment, what sort of recovery is likely or possible? Would he be able to step back into his job?

That would depend totally on his energy, how he's feeling overall from the treatment, and if he has any neurologic deficits from the tumor itself; how intact his speech is and his language function.

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