Thursday, July 8, 2010

Autopsy Report


Here's a little synopsis of the report:

Dad was diagnosed with a high-grade astrocytoma. This is the most common type of glioma and most common primary brain cancer. Primary brain cancer means that the cancer started in his brain, it did not spread from anywhere else. This is not a lymphoma. An "astrocytoma" means that the cancer cells were astrocytes. Astrocytes are cells that help support nerves and other brain cells in your brain. Astrocytes are a type of glial cell (helper cells in the brain) and that is why it is also called a glioma. In other words, an astrocytoma is a type of glioma.

Gliomas occur in about 5 out of 100,000 people every year in the United States. This means they are rare, but in Mesa, for example, there may be about 20 people every year that are diagnosed with a glioma.

There are NO known risk factors for developing an astrocytoma, and there is no known genetic component. This means that the rest of the Thomas family has NO increased risk of developing an astrocytoma.

Also there was nothing in Dad's life that could have caused or prevented this from happening. Cancers occur from spontaneous mutations that build up until the cells start multiplying out of control.

Senator Ted Kennedy was also diagnosed with a glioma and he lived about as long as Dad did after his first symptoms. Dad received the best care available for his condition even though he wasn't diagnosed until after the autopsy.

High-grade astrocytomas are especially difficult to diagnose because they spread all throughout normal cells and can be hard to find until the end. The pathologist looked at the previous biopsies done when Dad was alive and they couldn't see the cancer that they found in the autopsy. This means that either the cancer progressed very quickly in the months between the biopsy and autopsy, or they missed the cancer cells in the biopsies because they were too rare.

Not much would have changed with Dad's treatment even if we knew the diagnosis before he passed away. There is no good treatment for astrocytoma. The chemotherapy he received actually works against astrocytoma, but it only can extend a life for a couple months, it is not usually curative.

I'd be happy to answer any more questions anyone has.