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Brain Tumors Exposed

Since Sen. Ted Kennedy's diagnosis in May, Americans are paying more attention to the words "brain tumor." Missourians in particular are becoming more concerned due to an unusually high number of brain tumors in one northwest Missouri town. KSMU's Megan Keathley spoke with an area neurosurgeon about brain tumors, their affects, and how today's doctors treat them.

In the past several weeks, the eyes of the nation have been focused on Massachusetts senator Edward Kennedy, and the discovery of a malignant tumor in the top-center part of his brain. Here in the Midwest, federal and state officials have gathered in Missouri to look into a disturbing trend: In only two years, seven residents of the small town of Cameron, Missouri have developed brain tumors. Although Kennedy successfully underwent surgery to remove parts of the tumor earlier this month, his doctors have reported that this is merely the first phase of his treatment.

Dr. Alan Scarrow is a neurosurgeon with St. John's Health Systems in Springfield. He explains why a three-part treatment regimen is necessary for brain tumor patients.

Kennedy's specific type of tumor is called an astrocytoma, which means that the tumor originated from cells in the brain, rather than traveling there from another cancerous part of the body.

Scarrow says life-threatening adult brain tumors are normally either metastatic or astrocytomal. A third type, meningiomal tumors, form in the outer covering of the brain and are typically benign. However, classifying the tumor is easier once you know it's there.

Dr. Scarrow estimates that St. John's surgeons treated over one-hundred seventy brain tumor patients last year.