BOSTON – Sen. Edward M. Kennedy has a malignant brain tumor. Doctors for the Massachusetts Democrat say tests conducted after Kennedy suffered a seizure this weekend show a tumor in his left parietal lobe. Preliminary results from a biopsy of the brain identified the cause of the seizure as a malignant glioma, they said. Some experts gave the liberal lion less than a year to live.
Doctors discovered the tumor after the 76-year-old senator and sole surviving son of America’s most storied political family suffered a seizure over the weekend. The diagnosis cast a pall over Capitol Hill, where the Massachusetts Democrat has served since 1962, and came as a shock to a family all too accustomed to sudden, calamitous news.
“Ted Kennedy and the Kennedy family have faced adversity more times in more instances with more courage and more determination and more grace than most families have to,” said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. “Every one of us knows what a big heart this fellow has. He’s helped millions and millions of people — from the biggest of legislation on the floor to the most personal.”
Kerry added: “This guy is one unbelievable fighter.”
Kennedy’s doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital said he had a malignant glioma in the left parietal lobe, a region of the brain that helps govern sensation, movement and language.
Seizures can be caused by a wide variety of things, some of them relatively minor. The finding of a brain tumor — and specifically a glioma, an especially lethal type — was about the worst possible news.
Kennedy’s doctors said he will remain in the hospital for the next couple of days as they consider chemotherapy and radiation. They did not mention surgery, a possible indication the tumor is inoperable.
Outside experts gave him no more than three years — and perhaps far less.
“As a general rule, at 76, without the ability to do a surgical resection, as kind of a ballpark figure you’re probably looking at a survival of less than a year,” said Dr. Keith Black, chairman of neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
In a statement, Dr. Lee Schwamm, vice chairman of neurology at Massachusetts General, and Dr. Larry Ronan, Kennedy’s primary physician, said the senator “has had no further seizures, remains in good overall condition, and is up and walking around the hospital.”
“He remains in good spirits and full of energy,” the physicians said.
An Associated Press photographer who was given access to the senator on Tuesday captured Kennedy, dressed in a gray sweater and dark slacks, joking and laughing with family members as he sat at a table in a family room at the hospital.
Kennedy’s wife since 1992, Vicki, and his five children and stepchildren have been at his bedside.
“Obviously it’s tough news for any son to hear,” said Robin Costello, a spokeswoman for one of Kennedy’s sons, Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I. “He’s comforted by the fact that his dad is such a fighter, and if anyone can get through something as challenging as this, it would be his father.”
Kennedy, the Senate’s second-longest serving member, was re-elected in 2006 and is not up for election again until 2012. Were he to resign or die in office, state law requires a special election for the seat 145 to 160 days afterward.
Among the potential Democratic candidates: Martha Coakley, the state’s attorney general; Rep. Edward J. Markey; former Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II, Kennedy’s nephew; and Kennedy’s wife. The Republican contenders could include former Gov. Mitt Romney or former Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey.
Kennedy has left his stamp on a raft of health care, pension and immigration legislation during four decades in the Senate.
Senators of both parties heard about Kennedy’s condition during their weekly, closed-door policy lunches, and some looked drawn or misty-eyed.