The neurons sparked a burst of electrical activity, causing a seizure that made parts of his body become rigid and start to shake. This signaled neurosugeons to act and figure out what was wrong with Senator Ted Kennedy” (Gupta, 2008).
In his highly readable Time magazine article, Sanjay Gupta detailed the disease that is now slowly overtaking Ted Kennedy and the medical options he can choose from.
Warning signs prior to the seizure may have been too trivial to be considered severe. Unfussy headaches, little numbness of the arm or maybe recurrent lose for words. But finally, a seizure ordered the doctors to perform a MRI scan of the senator’s head, revealing a tumor build up in his brain. After thorough probing, neurosurgeons pronounced him to having a malignant glioma, a brain tumor of the worst kind, which brings severe suffering to 40,000 of his other fellow Americans every year.
What’s next for Ted Kennedy? Gupta presented new treatment options like the surgery called functional MRI scan, Chemotheraphy and radiation. He can also prefer new therapies like the so-called brain-tumor vaccine or the gene therapy that injects custom-made viruses into tumor cells causing them to die or at least be vulnerable to radiation. But in the end, Gupta concluded that to survive this disease the senator will have to preserve strength and optimism as on modern medicine.
Brain tumor is an abnormal growth caused by uncontrolled cell reproduction in the brain. It can be benign brain tumor, which consists of benign or harmless cells and has distinct boundaries or a malignant brain tumor, which may consists of cancer cells and or located in vital areas that is life-threatening.
U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy is recently diagnosed as having the latter found in his left parietal lobe. A tumor in this area of the brain could affect Kennedy’s ability to speak and understand speech, as well as the strength on the right side of his body (Gupta as cited in “Doctors:Ted”, 2008).
Brain tumors are categorized as primary brain tumors and metastatic brain tumors. Primary brain tumors occur to people of all ages and start in the brain while metastatic brain tumors are more common in adults and are formed by cancer cells that start elsewhere in the body and spread to the brain (ABTA, 1991).
According to American Brain Tumor Association (1991), a malignant brain tumor made up of cancerous cells may spread or seed to other locations or distant locations in the brain or spinal cord however it seldom seed outside the Central Nervous System. It can impair healthy tissues so they cannot function properly.
Often the increasing size of the tumor causes pressure within the skull displacing, damaging, or even destroying normal brain tissue. A tumor may also cause blockage of fluid flowing around and through the brain which can add up to the pressure caused by the growing tumor inside the skull (ABTA, 1991).
The symptoms generally depend on the size of the tumor and the part of the brain affected, but as it grows it can affect other parts of the brain and produce new symptoms. They are hard to pin down for they appear gradually and are often not definite as a result it may take a long time between the beginning of the symptoms and the actual diagnosis.
Increased intracranial pressure or IICP due to increase in the mass within the rigid bones of the skull, swelling of the tissue around the tumor and blockage of the flow of cerebrospinal fluid, develops to some patient with brain tumors. Headache, vomiting, mental changes like drowsiness, uncoordinated clumsy movements and seizures are the symptoms of IICP (ABTA, 1991).
Tumor is only detected through scanning for it is hidden in the bone of the skull making it impossible for doctors to see with just routine examination and exact diagnosis requires thorough test under the microscope of the detected tumor. Some diagnostic tests may include the use of Computerized Axial Tomographer (CT or CAT), MRI and PET scanning devices, Ecletroencephalogram (EEG), which is used to record electrical activity of the brain, and Biopsy, wherein a surgical procedure is done to remove a small amount of tumor tissue for accurate diagnosis through microscopic examination (ABTA, 1991).
Tumors are classified on the basis of their characteristics. Glioma, which is the most common primary brain tumor and the one diagnosed in Senator Ted Kennedy’s brain, is a general term for tumor that arise from the glial or the supportive tissue of the brain (ABTA, 1991).
Other most common brain tumors are Acoustic Neuroma, which is a benign tumor of the nerve of hearing, and Astrocytomas which is a tumor that arise from astrocyte cells and graded by different classification systems. Many malignant tumors cannot be removed completely during surgery may have spread to the surrounding tissue in the brain and may tend to recur, and are called recurrent tumors (ABTA, 1991).
Treatment of brain tumor differs from the treatment of tumors in other parts of the body for the reason that brain surgery requires extra precision and extremely sophisticated instruments, the brain prevents many therapeutic drugs from entering it, and therapies as well as side effects of therapies are quite complicated.
Treatment, to mention just a few, include surgery, which is the treatment of choice for accessible brain tumors and is done primarily to remove as much tumor as possible and to provide access for other treatments such as newer forms of radiation, and therapy most commonly of which is the chemotherapy that uses special chemical to poison the tumor cells (ABTA, 1991).
Malignant glioma is the most common primary brain tumor, accounting for more than half of the 18,000 primary malignant brain tumors diagnosed each year in the United States according to the National Cancer Institute (“Doctors:Ted”, 2008), and this is the bug Senator Kennedy is in battle with while in the bed of Massachesetts General Hospital.
American Brain Tumor Association (1991). A Primer of Brain Tumors: A Patients Reference Manual. Neurosurgical Service. Retrieved May 29, 2008 from http://neurosurgery.mgh.harvard.edu/abta/primer.htm
Doctors: Ted Kennedy has malignant brain tumor. (2008, May 21). CNN Politics. Retrieved May 29, 2008 from http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/05/20/kennedy.tumor
Gupta, S. (2008). What’s Next for Kennedy. Time. Retrieved May 28,2008 from http://www.time.com/time/specials/2007/article/0,28804,1703763_1703764,00.html