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Kennedy at North Carolina hospital for brain surgery
Sen. Edward Kennedy was at Duke University Medical Center on Monday for surgery to treat a malignant brain tumor.
In a statement, the 76-year-old Democratic icon said he and his wife, Vicki, "along with my outstanding team of doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital, have consulted with experts from around the country and have decided that the best course of action for my brain tumor is targeted surgery followed by chemotherapy and radiation."
Aides said the senator would be going into surgery around 9 a.m. ET and the surgery would last four to six hours.
Afterward, Kennedy said in the statement, he expects to remain in the hospital "to recuperate for approximately one week."
He added, "Shortly thereafter, I will start radiation treatments at Massachusetts General Hospital and begin chemotherapy."
Kennedy, a senator from Massachusetts since 1962, suffered a seizure May 17 while walking his dogs at his home in Hyannisport, Massachusetts.
Three days later, Kennedy's doctors at Massachusetts General said that preliminary results from a brain biopsy showed a tumor in the left parietal lobe was responsible for the seizure.
The surgeon is Dr. Allan Friedman, Kennedy's statement said. Friedman is chief of the division of neurosurgery and co-director of Duke's Neuro-Oncology Program, according to the hospital's Web site.
Friedman is responsible for more than 90 percent of all tumor removals and biopsies conducted at Duke, the medical center's Web site says.
It's possible Kennedy will be awake for his surgery, according to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN's chief medical correspondent a neurosurgeon.
Friedman and the Duke hospital are known for surgery called "motor mapping" in which doctors locate the areas of the brain responsible for things such as movement and speech and map these areas to ensure they are avoided.
Often during such operations, surgeons ask a patient to repeat certain words or make a movement such as squeezing a hand so they can identify areas of the brain involving speech and movement.
They then attempt to remove as much of the tumor as they believe they can safely, Gupta said.
Gupta said earlier that a tumor in the left parietal lobe could affect the senator's ability to speak and understand speech as well as the strength on the right side of his body.
Gupta said such tumors don't usually metastasize or spread to other parts of the body.
"What they do do -- and I think that's a concern to people -- is that they grow, and sometimes they invade other normal parts of the brain. That is the big concern here," he said.
Malignant glioma is the most common primary brain tumor, accounting for more than half of the 18,000 primary malignant brain tumors diagnosed each year in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Kennedy used his statement Monday to focus on the presidential race as well his surgery. "After completing treatment, I look forward to returning to the United States Senate and to doing everything I can to help elect Barack Obama as our next president," he said.
Obama, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, described Kennedy as a "giant" of the Senate.
"I think you can argue that I would not be sitting here as a presidential candidate had it not been for some of the battles that Ted Kennedy has fought," Obama said.
"He is somebody who battled for voting rights and civil rights when I was a child. I stand on his shoulders."
Obama's rival, Sen. Hillary Clinton, said Kennedy's courage and resolve made him one of the greatest legislators in Senate history.
"He's a fighter. There isn't anybody like him who gets up and goes out and does battle on behalf of all of us every single day," Clinton said. "I know he's a fighter when it comes to the challenges he's facing right now."
Sen. John McCain, the GOP presumptive presidential nominee, also offered his thoughts and prayers for Kennedy's family.
"I have described Ted Kennedy as the last lion in the Senate. And I have held that view because he remains the single most effective member of the Senate," McCain said.
President Bush said in a statement he was saddened by the news and would keep the senator in his prayers.
"Laura and I are concerned to learn of our friend Sen. Kennedy's diagnosis. Ted Kennedy is a man of tremendous courage, remarkable strength and powerful spirit. Our thoughts are with Sen. Kennedy and his family during this difficult period," he said.
Kennedy had surgery in October to clear his carotid artery in hopes of preventing a stroke. Until the seizure, the powerful Democrat appeared in fine health. He suffers chronic back pain from injuries suffered in a 1964 plane crash.
Kennedy is one of only six senators in U.S. history to serve more than 40 years. He is an iconic liberal champion of social issues such as health care, family leave and the minimum wage.
He is the youngest of four brothers in a powerful and legendary family. His oldest brother, Joe Kennedy, was killed in World War II; John F. Kennedy was the 35th president of the United States and slain in 1963; and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, a former U.S. attorney general, was running for president when he was assassinated in 1968.