When doctors announced that Sen. Edward Kennedy had a kind of brain cancer called malignant glioma, many people hearing the news had probably never heard of the cancer.
For some, however, the diagnosis was painfully familiar. WebMD talked to three survivors of brain cancer similar to that affecting the senator, including two who have survived it for more than 10 years. Their advice to Kennedy: Don't listen to statistics, and don't give up hope.
Here are their stories:
Surgery should be performed in an attempt at maximal tumor reduction. Evidence suggests that more extensive surgical resection is related to an improved rate of survival.[1,2,3,4,5]; [Level of evidence: 3iDii] Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) should be performed postoperatively to confirm the extent of resection. If not performed preoperatively, MRI of the entire neuraxis to evaluate disease dissemination and cerebrospinal fluid cytopathology should be performed.
Patients with residual tumor or disseminated disease should be considered at high risk for relapse and should be treated on protocols specifically designed for them. Those with no evidence of residual tumor still have an approximate 20% to 40% relapse risk in spite of postoperative radiation therapy.
Anecdotal experience suggests that surgery alone for completely resected supratentorial nonanaplastic tumors and intradural spinal cord ependymomas may, in select cases, be an appropriate approach to treatment.[7,8][Level of evidence: 3iiiDi]; [9,10][Level of evidence: 3iiiDiii]
Treatment options for no residual disease, no disseminated disease
The traditional postsurgical treatment for these patients has been radiation therapy consisting of 54 Gy to 55.8 Gy to the tumor bed for children aged 3 years and older. It is not necessary to treat the entire CNS (whole brain and spine) because these tumors usually recur initially at the local site.; [Level of evidence: 3iiiA] When possible, patients should be treated in a center experienced with the delivery of highly conformal radiation therapy (including intensity-modulated radiation therapy or charged-particle radiation therapy) to pediatric patients with brain tumors.