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Sen. Ted Kennedy Has Brain Cancer

Doctors Diagnose Kennedy With Malignant Brain Tumor
By
WebMD Health News

May 20, 2008 -- Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, 76, has been diagnosed with a malignant glioma, a type of brain cancer.
brain

A glioma is a brain tumor that begins in glial cells, which are cells that surround and support nerve cells.

Kennedy remains at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he has been since he suffered a seizure on Saturday.

His doctors -- who include Lee Schwamm, MD, vice chairman of the neurology department at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Larry Ronan, MD, a primary care physician at Massachusetts General Hospital -- today released the following statement about Kennedy's condition:

"Over the course of the last several days, we've done a series of tests on Senator Kennedy to determine the cause of his seizure. He has had no further seizures, remains in good overall condition, and is up and walking around the hospital. Some of the tests we had performed were inconclusive, particularly in light of the fact that the senator had severe narrowing of the left carotid artery [which supplies blood from the heart to the brain] and underwent surgery just 6 months ago. However, preliminary results from a biopsy of the brain identified the cause of the seizure as a malignant glioma in the left parietal lobe. The usual course of treatment includes combinations of various forms of radiation and chemotherapy. Decisions regarding the best course of treatment for Senator Kennedy will be determined after further testing and analysis. Senator Kennedy will remain at Massachusetts General Hospital for the next couple of days, according to routine protocol. He remains in good spirits and full of energy."

WebMD spoke about Kennedy's diagnosis with Deborah Heros, MD, associate professor of clinical neurology and neuro-oncology at the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. Heros is not involved in Kennedy's treatment or diagnosis.

What do you make of the doctors' statement?

I think that he had a biopsy and it showed that he had what's called a malignant glioma, and seizures can be a presenting symptom for a brain tumor. As they had mentioned, usually we use radiation therapy and chemotherapy for treatment of this tumor after surgery. It appears as though Massachusetts General Hospital will be discussing that further and that we would expect him to begin treatment.

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.

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