NEAL CONAN, host:
This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. We're going to spend most of this hour talking about the ways that the web and new technology can help make government better, but first, more on the news about Senator Ted Kennedy's medical condition. Senator Kennedy went to the hospital this weekend after suffering a seizure, and today doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston say - said he had a malignant brain tumor. Joining us here at Studio 3A is NPR's senior science editor, Joe Neel. Thanks very much for coming in, Joe.
JOE NEEL: Thank you Neal.
CONAN: And what kind of tumor is it?
NEEL: The tumor that we're being told he has is a malignant glioma. Now they're not being more specific than that, but a glioma is basically a tumor that's inside the brain, it's a tumor of the mind, essentially the cells that connect the nerves together in the brain. These glycol cells are a stringy kind of web that connects the cells together.
And we don't know how aggressive this particular tumor is. We're being told it's malignant so we can assume that it is fairly aggressive. And until we know more, until further tests are done, and he is remaining in the hospital while these tests are being done, until we know what the results are, we really can't say for sure what it is.
CONAN: Malignant is a code word for cancer?
NEEL: That's right, yes, absolutely. It's a malignant form of cancer.
CONAN: And in this kind of tumor, is there an operation to cutting it out? Is that an option?
NEEL: Well, in some cases, gliomas are operable. In this case most of the news reports we're seeing are saying that radiation and chemotherapy are going to be the main course of treatment. It - again, it depends on what stage the tumor is at. The senator, as far as we know, did not have any symptoms prior to the seizure that he experienced on Saturday. So we may - I don't want to speculate on where it lays on the spectrum of seriousness, but it's safe - if they're saying it's malignant, it's fairly far along, and may not be operable.
CONAN: And if it is malignant, as they say, is there any kind of prognosis that we can talk about usefully?
NEEL: Well, on average, survival can range from anywhere as short as a year, if it's extremely aggressive, if it's a fast moving, fast growing tumor. Or sometimes if it's one of the slower growing, but yet still malignant tumors, people may live from three to five years, and again it depends on how successful the treatment is, and a number of factors. It's really too early to say.
CONAN: Chemo and radiation are unpleasant in and of themselves.
NEEL: Yes. Not pleasant at all.
CONAN: And the - as you look ahead, the senator, is he likely to be able to resume his public career?
NEEL: People are able to function after they have had treatment, but again, it depends on where we are in the seriousness of his disease.
CONAN: And how soon can we expect information about what exactly what type of glioma, what type of tumor this is?
NEEL: I think over the next several days we'll be hearing more about it.
CONAN: Joe Neel, thanks very much for bringing us up to date.
NEEL: Thank you.
CONAN: NPR's senior science editor Joe Neel with us here in Studio 3A. Of course, stay tuned to NPR News for the latest as we learn more about Senator Kennedy's condition. We'll be back in just a moment with Government 2.0.
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