Dr. Kevin Most: Senator McCain’s health
We got word last night that Senator McCain was diagnosed with brain cancer. It appears that his tumor is one classified as a Glioblastoma. Another concern would be that this is a reoccurrence of his melanoma which is know to metastasize to the brain. However reporting last night states it is a GBM. The sad thing is these are very aggressive tumors, mainly because they come from normal brain tissue which allows them to invade and spread into normal brain tissue. These tumors also have a very rich blood supply which allows them to grow. The rapid growth causes pressure in the brain which shows with various symptoms.
They are not common, they account for 15% of all brain tumors and we see approximately 13,000 cases a year in the United States
This finding is sad but also explains some of the recent findings that have been reported with the Senator. Symptoms can include headache, nausea, vomiting and weakness, but often it is found by an individual being confused, have memory or speech difficulties. Exactly what we saw during the Comey hearings and his question. This also may explain the blood clot that was removed as these tumors are very vascular and a blood vessel could rupture causing the clot.
The diagnosis is made by looking at a biopsy of brain tissue which was taken at the time of the blood clot surgery. They will look at a slide under the microscope to make the diagnosis.
Unfortunately these are very difficult to treat as the GBM is made up of many different cell types, so a simple standard therapy does not work. The treatment is wide ranging with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation all being used. The other difficult thing about these tumors is that surgery will not be able to remove 100% of the tumor in almost all cases. The tumor cells can spread at a level that the doctor or imaging cannot see, so although the surgeon may feel he removed 95% of the tumor that 5% is still out there and continues to spread, that is why chemo and radiation are also used.
Overall prognosis for this tumor is dismal, there are cases of long term survival but in many cases the life expectancy is less than 2 years.
Please keep the Senator and his family in your prayers