KENNEDY’S BRAIN SURGERY CALLED A SUCCESS
DURHAM, North Carolina (AFP) — US Senator Edward Kennedy underwent “successful” brain cancer surgery Monday, his doctor said, as the political icon vowed a return to work and to campaigning for presidential hopeful Barack Obama.
“I am pleased to report that Senator Kennedy’s surgery was successful and accomplished our goals,” Duke University Medical Center doctor Allan Freidman said in a statement.
“Senator Kennedy was awake during the resection, and should therefore experience no permanent neurological effects from the surgery,” said Freidman, one of the country’s top brain surgeons.
The delicate three-and-a-half hour surgery, Freidman said, was “the first step” in the Democratic party giant’s treatment plan. After a brief recuperation Kennedy is due to begin targeted radiation at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston followed by chemotherapy treatment.
Kennedy, 76, is the last surviving brother of assassinated President John F. Kennedy.
He reportedly told his wife, Victoria, afterward: “I feel like a million bucks. I think I’ll do that again tomorrow,” said the senator’s office, cited by US media.
The liberal lion of the Senate said he was eyeing an eventual return to Capitol Hill and to campaigning for Obama, whom he endorsed earlier this year.
“After completing treatment, I look forward to returning to the United States Senate and to doing everything I can to help elect Barack Obama as our next president,” the senator said.
Kennedy was rushed to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston on May 17 after suffering a seizure at his family’s compound in Hyannis Port on Cape Cod.
Following results from a biopsy, doctors diagnosed Kennedy with a malignant glioma in the left parietal lobe, an area of the brain which controls speech, among other functions.
Doctors have not publicly offered a prognosis for Kennedy. But the US National Cancer Institute has said the outlook for such a diagnosis is poor, with average life expectancy depending on the stage of the tumor, from a few months to up to five years.
Gliomas often begin with genetic changes in the brain’s glial cells — cells which support neurological activity — although the source of such changes remains a mystery, according to experts.
A key challenge for doctors is removing such tumors without harming healthy brain tissue.
About 13,000 Americans die annually from malignant tumors in the brain or spinal cord, comprising 2.2 percent of all cancer-linked deaths, according to the American Cancer Society. Survival has improved over the past decade due in part to new drugs.
The tumors kills 50 percent of patients during the first year after diagnosis and few live beyond three years. Without treatment the tumor grows back between two to three months after being surgically removed.
The brain tumor diagnosis sent shockwaves through the US Congress, where Kennedy has been a dominant figure for nearly half a century.
He is a champion of causes such as health care, education, workers rights and immigration reform.
While he has been a fierce critic of President George W. Bush, he has also reached out to work with Republicans.
Kennedy, whose eighth term in the Senate expires in 2012, once seemed destined for the White House.
But his career was rocked by the death of a young woman, Mary Jo Kopechne, in his car late one night in 1969 after he drove off a bridge near Chappaquiddick island.
He did run for president in 1980 against incumbent Jimmy Carter. Kennedy lost the Democratic nomination but politically damaged Carter, who lost the general election to Republican Ronald Reagan.
Kennedy’s latest health crisis came six months after he had surgery to clear a blockage in a major neck artery, a common procedure to prevent a stroke.
His brother, late president John F. Kennedy Jr. was shot and killed in 1963, and brother Robert Kennedy was shot dead while campaigning for the presidency in 1968.
Ted is the youngest of nine children in the famed Kennedy clan. His eldest brother Joseph died in a plane crash during World War II.