Doctors at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital described Senator Edward (Ted) Kennedy’s brain tumor as a malignant glioma in his left parietal lobe. The bad news is that the median survival period for patients with this aggressive type of brain tumor is only 15 months.
Dr. Keith L. Black, the chairman of the department of neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, stated that “age is a very strong predictor of prognosis” with this type of tumor, which makes the outlook for Kennedy, who is 76, not as good as that of a younger patient.
Dr. Black also stated that only about 8% of patients with this type of tumor are still alive two years after its diagnosis.
Aggressive gliomas like Kennedy’s spread quite rapidly throughout the brain, cramping space inside the skull by taking up space and squeezing other brain tissue thereby impairing the brain tissue’s function. It can cause speech difficulties, an impairment in performing mathematics, and interference with hand and eye coordination.
However, Dr. Henry Brem, director of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital, who is not involved in Kennedy’s treatment, said he has “patients 20 and 30 years out from diagnosis, and they are functioning normally and doing well.”
Although such an outcome is possible for Kennedy, unfortunately, the statistics are not on Senator Kennedy’s side.
Treatment at this point will usually involve surgery to remove the tumor, followed by chemotherapy and radiation treatment, although there may be other factors that may preclude surgery in Kennedy’s case.