Kennedy's death hits close to home for cancer patients

By Sara Story - email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - While Americans remember the life of Senator Ted Kennedy, his death is hitting close for people who have experience with brain cancer.

Duane Epps spends his days giving medicine to cancer patients, and his work hit close to home when his own father was diagnosed with brain cancer.

"When he was first diagnosed we were sitting at the kitchen table, and out of the blue he called his dog my sister's boyfriend's name," said Epps.

The type of tumor Epps's dad had is called a malignant glioma, the same kind of brain cancer that Senator Kennedy died from Tuesday night. Oncologist Coty Ho says gliomas look like spider webs in the brain and are hard to detect early.

"There is no screening tests for brain cancer unfortunately because the skull is an enclosed space," explained Dr. Ho. "One of first the symptoms is a headache, or some other neurological symptoms like seizures."

The three treatment options are surgical removal, radiation, and chemotherapy.

"For the patient that can not undergo surgery life expectancy is anywhere from months to as much as a little over a year," said Ho.

Like most patients, Epps's dad was given little time to live.

"Six months...Max," said Epps.

But, miraculously, Mr. Epps beat the odds. His tumor was removed and cancer symptoms disappeared for almost seven years.

"It was a real blessing because there are a lot of things you want to talk to your parents about," said Epps.

The cancer eventually returned and took Mr. Epps's life, but his son says he is confidant that the research being done will someday cure patients like Senator Kennedy and his father.

"Some of it I know about," said Epps. "Some of it I don't, but there is a lot of hope out there."

Doctors say a patient's chance to survive also depends on their age and general state of health.

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