Sen. Kennedy’s Brain Tumor

Sen. Ted Kennedy, one of the last of the siblings of JFK and Bobby who is alive recently was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in his left parietal lobe. His first symptom was a seizure. As soon as I heard that he had had a seizure I started wondering about a tumor. There aren’t too many reasons someone would have a seizure out of the blue at the age Sen. Kennedy is. Too much stress possibly could cause a seizure as could an adverse reaction to certain medications but those are not likely. Children often can have a seizure at random with no other symptoms or no specific underlying problems but it’s very rare for older adults to experience seizures without very specific reasons, such as a brain tumor (it’s very common to have seizures if you have a brain tumor).

Sen. Kennedy’s tumor, as stated earlier, is in his left parietal lobe. Depending on its specific location and size, the tumor could disrupt his ability to comprehend language (if it disrupts Wernicke’s Area). It could also affect his ability to integrate visual and motor information as well as affect his motor or sensory functioning on his right half of his body. All of those symptoms are speculative without neurological testing, of course, but the parietal lobes are involved in a number of functions, including sensory and cognitive integrative functions.

The good news is that this form of cancer – a glioma – does not spread to other parts of the body (although it could continue to grow in the brain). It is also treatable by resection and chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is far from an enjoyable process (it’s a treatment that practically kills people) but it can be very successful. While Sen. Kennedy’s prognosis is uncertain he could survive the cancer with relatively few lasting effects. I don’t think anyone can survive brain surgery and chemotherapy without at least some┬álasting cognitive deficits (although the deficits might be very hard to detect) but the outcome of gliomas is not always grim.

One Reply to “Sen. Kennedy’s Brain Tumor”

  1. The bad news about gliomas is that they vary in their malignancy – some are relatively gentle and show little change over months (or even years). Others can be very destructive.
    In the absence of information about Sen. Kennedy’s condition I would be very cautious about offering an opinion! Neurosurgeons use a grading system to define the aggressiveness of gliomas – a Grade I tumor can be treated by resection and radiotherapy. A grade IV may be reduced in volume by surgery but the objective is to make the person comfortable rather than to cure them.
    I offer my best wishes to Sen Kennedy.

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