May 20th, 2008
02:04 PM ET

Dr. Gupta: First analysis of Sen. Kennedy news

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Editor's note: Dr. Sanjay Gupta is CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent. He is also a practicing neurosurgeon and an assistant professor of neurosurgery. Following is what he told CNN's Don Lemon right after news of Sen. Kennedy's brain tumor broke.

Sen. Ted Kennedy had an operation back in October on the carotid artery. That was a prophylactic, preventive operation to prevent someone from having a stroke.

What they saw when they started to examine the senator after the seizure was some sort of abnormality on the left side of the brain, specifically the left parietal lobe. Was that a tumor, was that a sort of the characteristics of a stroke? They didn't know exactly what it was.

So it sounds like they performed a biopsy, essentially taking a little bit of tissue from that area of the brain and look at that under the microscope. What they found was that this is, in fact, a malignant tumor.

There are different courses of treatment that can be taken at this point; they will depend on exactly the boundaries of this tumor. Some will depend on exactly how these cells react to radiation and chemotherapy. Some will be based on the senator's preference, what he would like to do now that he has this diagnosis.

This is something that obviously the doctors are going to have to deal with in a relatively expeditious fashion. He's doing well. It's not surprising.

The seizures are controlled probably with readily available medication. How exactly you take care of the tumor is something they're going to have to think about along with the senator and his family over the next couple of days.

Filed under: Sen. Ted Kennedy
soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. Pat M

    My thoughts and prayers are with Ted Kennedy and his Family. The Kennedy Family has unselfishly served their Nation for decades and are respected and loved by people through out the world. We wish the Senator a Full and Speedy Recovery. God Bless.

    Tom, Larry & Missy:

    How insensitive and cruel . This is not the time for your hateful comments. Have some decency. Ironically your comments say much more about you than they do about the subject of this blog and what they say about you is not complimentary for sure.

    I can't understand why the Moderator would allow these comments to be posted when so many others have been rejected.

    May 21, 2008 at 9:04 am |
  2. Tom

    Maybe 38 years ago is ancient history to some, I'm sure its not to her family. His family will get to say good-bye. I'll have you all know, my family has faced just as tragic situations, with no fan fare. (Any large family will have their share of joy and grief, the Kennedys just have their joy and pain on the front page of the newspaper.) He is 76 years old and had a great life. He will get to have his family by his side, because no one HAS to work just to put food on the table or pay the mortgage. I hope in this time he can apologize for what he did that poor girl. Debbie – Karma is a two way street .... Oh yeah, my twenty years of volunteer service to the poor and needy in my community may over that. I am not uncaring, just have a memory.

    May 21, 2008 at 7:26 am |
  3. ophelia/FL

    My Family's heart's and prayers are with Sen. Kennedy & his Family, they mean so very much to my Family History, thank God for the Kennedy's!!!

    May 21, 2008 at 1:23 am |
  4. EJ

    Sanjay wears so many hats, I almost forgot that his main one was neurosurgeon. Thanks for the medical perspective & information today.

    Question for Sanjay – I know someone asked a similar question earlier, but was it possible that the tumor started growing after Kennedy had his carotid artery operation last year? Or is it possible that it was so small then it was not yet detected?

    May 21, 2008 at 12:47 am |
  5. sheryl, san antonio,texas

    As I read all of the postings, it comes to mind that some people are selfish. How can you belong to humanity when all you can think of is your own selfish desires. Wether Sen. Kennedy voted for Hillary or Obama is not of importance here. Wake up people, this is a man that prior to this primary election was and is a hero. I don't care who or why he chose to vote the way he did, I pray for his healt and strength to get through this time. I won't pick on larry or tom, they have already made their own beds and they will sleep in them. Hopefully not together. God Bless the Kennedy Family.

    May 21, 2008 at 12:18 am |
  6. EJ

    Missy – I agree with Debbie. That is bad karma indeed.

    People who make fun of others' having brain tumors or say some of the comments that have been posted here – I can't say how life will treat them.

    Remember – you are not God.

    Anything that Ted has to answer for is between himself and God - not between himself and Missy, Tom, & Larry.

    May 20, 2008 at 11:18 pm |
  7. Missy

    For those bashing Larry and Tom, I say maybe Ted is the one who created this karma for the death of Mary Jo Kopeche. I don't rejoice in hearing that Ted has a tumor yet I don't feel sorry for him either. His actions that night with his attempt to cover up the accident much less his lax attitude in getting help makes me wonder what kind of person he truly is.

    May 20, 2008 at 11:01 pm |
  8. Debbie, Louisiana


    I would express the same sympathy and empathy for anyone suffering from a malignant brain tumor. Bad karma, dude, BAD BAD karma.

    May 20, 2008 at 9:48 pm |
  9. Mary Blackwell

    Tom and Larry, you don't have to be a Kennedy fan to show some human compassion. I hope you never have to depend on the people who don't like you (and there are probably many) to show a little compassion when you are down.

    The Kennedys are imperfect people whose flaws are magnified by their prominence. But they give back far more than they take. Probably Ted Kennedy never had to work at all if he didn't want to. Instead he is known on both sides of the aisle as one of the hardest working people in the Senate.

    The MJ Kopechne episode was tragic but 1) it was almost 50 years ago, 2) people can grow and change as a result of terrible mistakes they make and/or tragic turns of fate (two brothers assassinated!, one killed in WWII). The good that people do CAN make amends for the harm they do.

    And for your information, general healthcare in MA is possibly the best in the country and many people besides Kennedy would have been airlifted to Boston from Hyannis for evaluation of an unexpected seizure. Hyannis has limited ability to provide complex medical care. I say this as both a MA resident and physician practicing in an academic center in Boston. It is also possible that Kennedy paid for his own air transport rather than go by ambulance though I think MANY patients transferred for acute problems from the Cape are flown to Boston. A 2-3 hour ambulance ride is often not a safe option unless the patient is known to be completely stable.

    I can also assure you that nobody with any sense takes two aspirin and goes back to work after having an unexpected seizure.

    May 20, 2008 at 8:22 pm |
  10. EJ

    I am sad for Ted & the Kennedy family. I think that they have been so strong after enduring so many unexpected deaths over the years. I remember Ted being the one who had to identify the remains when JFK Jr's plane crashed.

    I am glad that Ted was and is able to be around for the entire extended family. I wish him all the best and am glad that even up til now – he has had a long, productive, and full life. He really has made a difference in the Senate and especially in his own family.

    May 20, 2008 at 8:19 pm |
  11. Larry

    I suppose that every American who is afflicted with a malignant brain tumor doesn't matter, only those with deep pockets have families that care about their loved ones.

    William Kennedy Smith was more fortunate than others to have that Ted Kennedy connection; though I doubt anyone on here can even remember any of the girls' names. Seems like it was alright for the press to give out his middle-name; how times have changed.

    May 20, 2008 at 7:50 pm |
  12. Cindy

    I don't get why people have to be so incredibly mean to a man who may lose his life to this! You may not like him or agree with his ways but he is human with feelings and has a family that may see this crap. If they have nothing good to say then they should stay quiet! And why did 360 even post their trash talk!?

    May 20, 2008 at 7:36 pm |
  13. Carla Ontario Canada

    Tom and Larry, how insensitive...pray you wont have to face something like this one day.

    The Kennedys are a remarkable family and have done so much for USA. Our thoughts and prays are with them.

    May 20, 2008 at 6:56 pm |
  14. Tom

    I may have had more empathy if he had had any for Mary Jo Kopeche. She is the soul I will be praying for tonight. And let's not forget that the Kennedy money came from bootlegging..... That can be equated with today's drug cartels. Sorry, I will feel sorry for the millions who have no medical insurance tonight, and those that will send their kids to bed cold and hungry. He had a great life on the backs of the American People.

    May 20, 2008 at 6:49 pm |
  15. Jolene

    When I heard the news today, the first thing I thought was the "Kennedy Curse" lives on. This family sure has endured their share of bad news and tragedies. I'm sure I join most of the nation in praying that he stays strong as he goes through this recovery period.

    Jolene, St. Joseph, MI

    May 20, 2008 at 6:38 pm |
  16. Karen

    I posted under the other article. Dr. Gupta maybe you can tell us why they didn't discover this tumor during the testing procedures for the carotid procedure he had in October? Wouldn't blood flow studies, carotid Doppler or even a ct scan be done prior? Could the surgery enhanced the severity of this tumor by opening the body at surgery? Thank you.

    May 20, 2008 at 6:34 pm |
  17. Debbie, Denham Springs, LA

    To Tom and Larry:

    Maybe you should follow the yellow brick road and when you get to the Wizard of Oz, you should both ask for hearts.

    Your comments are truly disgusting.

    May 20, 2008 at 6:25 pm |
  18. Sharon from Indy

    Tom and Larry:
    Senator Ted Kennedy is a human being and his family and colleagues must be very worried about his maligant brain tumor. No matter what he has done in his lifetime or what family background he comes from, the man is sick with cancer.

    Yes, he does have privileges not many Americans can access, but no matter, he is facing the fight of his life.

    May 20, 2008 at 5:49 pm |
  19. Tom

    I immediately suspected brain damage when Mr. Kennedy endorsed Barack Obama. And I'm with Larry – I want the same health care coverage for my family. An airlift for a seizure – most Americans would take two Tylenol and be back to work in less than 12 hours.

    May 20, 2008 at 5:15 pm |
  20. Jacqueline

    Hi Dr. Gupta,

    My prayers go out to Senator Kennedy and the Kennedy family, real national treasures.

    May 20, 2008 at 4:32 pm |
  21. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Ted Kennedy is a real fighter so soldier on the battle is not over. God Bless.

    May 20, 2008 at 4:28 pm |
  22. Mickey, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

    Senator Kennedy is the most beloved figure in Massachusetts. He has thousands of people praying for him already, including myself and my family. God bless him on his way to a full and speedy recovery.

    May 20, 2008 at 3:53 pm |
  23. deborah,OH

    My thoughts & prayers are with Sen. Kennedy & his family.

    Having survived cancer twice with 2 different tumors, I can attest to the fact that it is more treatable now, with new discoveries all the time. I am lucky-I got through it ok.

    Good Luck Senator, & God bless.

    May 20, 2008 at 3:19 pm |
  24. Larry

    Its too bad that Kennedy & Kerry voted against the wishes of the the people of Mass., who went with Hillary.

    May 20, 2008 at 3:06 pm |
  25. Larry

    Looking forward to having the same health plan ( including MediVac chopper) as Ted Kennedy.

    May 20, 2008 at 3:03 pm |
  26. Lynne

    I am thinking with all optimism about Senator Kennedy. These days, cancer is much more treatable and with longevity that wasn't possible previously. For many, cancer is a treatable chronic condition than a death sentence.

    I have HOPE that Senator Kennedy will recover quickly!

    I so appreciate his support of Barack Obama and even moreso his continuation of the Kennedy spirit and championing of causes throughout his life.

    He will be back to work in no time, doing what he loves!

    May 20, 2008 at 2:57 pm |
  27. Susan

    Dr. Gupta:

    I was very saddened to hear of Senator Ted Kennedy's dx. I lost my dad to a Grade 4 neuroblastoma, also on the left side in the occipital lobe. I took him for a second opinion to Johns Hopkins, but the prognosis was very bleek. He chose quality of life and lived for four months with very little difficulty. He died in his sleep. I still really miss him.

    My thoughts and prayers will be with Senator Kennedy and his family.


    May 20, 2008 at 2:53 pm |
  28. Kent, Illinois

    Kennedy is a wonderful person and has done a lot for this country. I am confident that they will rid him of this tumor and he will be back soon. He is a fighter and he isn't done yet...........

    May 20, 2008 at 2:27 pm |
  29. Jane, Detroit, MI

    I'm no doctor, and certainly this is unpleasant news for Ted and his family, but "malignant brain tumor" sounds awfully compicated and and extremely risky to cure. The medical procedures to solve this one probably haven't been written yet. I am so sorry this happened and I would feel terrible if this happened to me or my family. I wish Ted all my best and hope God looks after him. He is loved and admired.

    May 20, 2008 at 2:25 pm |
  30. Joseph Kowalski, North Huntingdon, PA

    This is the worst possible news. My thoughts and prayers are with Senator Kennedy and his family.

    May 20, 2008 at 2:14 pm |