Sen. Edward Kennedy has malignant brain tumor
May 20, 2008
By Globe Staff
US Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the veteran lawmaker from Massachusetts who is the last surviving brother in the legendary Kennedy family, has been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, his doctors said today.
Doctors investigating the cause of a seizure that led to Kennedy's hospitalization this weekend said that preliminary results from a brain biopsy indicated the cause of the seizure was a tumor in the top left portion of his brain.
The usual course of treatment for the tumor -- a "malignant glioma" -- includes combinations of various forms of radiation and chemotherapy, Dr. Lee Schwamm, vice chairman of the neurology department at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Dr. Larry Ronan, Kennedy's primary care physician, said in a statement.
The doctors said decisions regarding the best course of treatment for the 76-year-old senator would be determined after further testing and analysis.
"He has had no further seizures, remains in good overall condition, and is up and walking around the hospital," the statement said. "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."
Dozens of reporters, cameramen, and producers surrounded one of the entrances of Massachusetts General Hospital this afternoon, waiting for further word on Kennedy.
Kennedy's wife and children have been with him each day since he was hospitalized but have made no public statements.
The senator's wife, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, arrived today at Mass. General at 6:20 a.m., stepping out of a black sport utility vehicle and walking briskly inside. His sons -- Edward M. Kennedy Jr. and Representative Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island -- came to visit their father at 9:45 a.m. None of the Kennedys talked to the gaggle of photographers and reporters standing watch outside.
Senate Democrats and Republicans were in their separate weekly policy lunches when word reached them of the diagnosis. CNN reported there was stunned silence.
At a news conference after the meeting, Kennedy's fellow senators offered support.
Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, said he had talked to Kennedy's wife and the senator was in good spirits.
"The Senate really is a family," Reid said. "We, as a family, are tremendously concerned about Senator Kennedy."
Senator John F. Kerry, the junior senator from Massachusetts, said the Kennedys have faced more serious adversity more times than most families face once.
"Everyone of us knows what a big heart this fellow has," Kerry said, calling his colleague a "living legend." "This guy is one unbelievable fighter ... He's in a fighting mood."
Malignant gliomas are a type of brain cancer diagnosed in about 9,000 Americans a year and are the most common type among adults. It's a starting diagnosis: How well patients fare depends on what specific tumor type is discovered.
Average survival can range from less than a year for very advanced and aggressive types -- such as glioblastomas -- to about five years for different types that are slower-growing.
One expert, Dr. Joseph Madsen, a neurosurgeon at Children's Hospital Boston, said the diagnosis was "very sad news."
“High-grade glio-malignancies” such as Senator Kennedy has “are unfortunately the most common kind of brain tumor in this age group, and they have a poor prognosis for long-term survival,” he said.
They can also be very debilitating during treatment, Madsen said, and Kennedy’s tumor is in an area where it may well eventually affect his speech.
Kennedy's hospitalization Saturday triggered shock in the political world and drew an outpouring of support from around the nation. But the initial alarm subsided when friends and associates said that he was talking and joking with family later that day -- and watching the Red Sox game.
The youngest of the nine children of Joseph P. Kennedy and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, Edward Kennedy was first elected to the Senate in 1962 to finish the final two years of his brother's term. He is serving his eighth term and is the second most senior member of the Senate.
A champion of liberal causes, he unsuccessfully ran for president in 1980, losing the Democratic nomination to President Carter.
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.