Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Sen. Edward Kennedy.

That I wish him well is a given. Here's WSJ.com on the prognosis:

In a statement today, Kennedy’s doctors said he has “a malignant glioma.”

Public details are still sketchy, but that diagnosis usually indicates a very aggressive type of tumor known as a glioblastoma. “Unfortunately, the older you are, the more likely it’s a glioblastoma,” Patrick Wen, clinical director at the Dana Farber’s Center for Neuro-Oncology, told the Health Blog. Kennedy is 76.

The average survival for a glioblastoma is 14.5 months, but survival tends to be shorter in elderly patients, Wen said.

The second most likely possibility is a less aggressive form of tumor called an anaplastic astrocytoma. Patients with that type of tumor typically survive for three to five years, Wen said.

Still, other factors contribute to the prognosis. One is how much of the tumor can be surgically removed. Kennedy’s doctors said his tumor is in the left parietal lobe, a section of the brain that plays a role in sensation for the right side of the body, and in the ability to understand language.

“Some tumors in the parietal lobe can be removed in certain places, depending on how big they are. Others cannot be,” Ralph Dacey, chairman of neurosurgery at Washington University in St. Louis, told the Health Blog.

Patients are typically treated with chemotherapy and radiation, along with surgery.

A seizure is often the first sign of a brain tumor, though many patients who have seizures don’t have tumors. “The fact that he presented with a seizure is a good thing,” Wen said. “It means it’s diagnosed slightly earlier than if the tumor got bigger and caused other things, like neurological deficits.”

Fingers crossed.

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