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Seve Ballesteros faces more surgery on cancerous tumour

Five-times major winner Seve Ballesteros is suffering from a rare type of brain tumour that is usually fatal, a medical expert said on Thursday.

Madrid’s La Paz hospital had earlier revealed the Spanish golfer has an oligoastrocytoma, which is a tumour composed of two types of brain cell—oligodendroytes and astrocytes that cover and protect the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.

Dr Geoff Pilkington, a tumour expert at the University of Portsmouth, told Reuters oligoastrocytoma tumours were very difficult to eradicate because they spread diffusely inside the brain cavity and cannot be treated by surgery alone.

Most patients with the most serious grade four condition die within 12 to 18 months but a hospital spokesperson declined to say what grade of tumour Ballesteros had.

However, Pilkington added: “I think it’s going to be at least a three because the mixed tumours usually are.

“They generally develop into a high grade tumour from which a patient will eventually die. The likelihood is that he (the patient) will die from the tumour at some stage.”

The seriousness partly depends on what proportion of the tumour is made up of astrocytes cells which tend to grow faster.

The 51-year-old Ballesteros will have a third operation on Friday when doctors face the rare complication of brain swelling and a hematoma (bleeding) following the initial operation.

“The key is to go in there and remove haemorrhage or tumour tissue without doing damage to the patient. It is obviously impinging on a vital centre of the brain,” said Dr Geoff Pilkington, a tumour expert at the University of Portsmouth.

“They are trying to rectify a surgical complication and, because they are going in anyway, they will try to get more of the tumour out.”

The chances of survival for the three-times British Open winner Ballesteros would likely be improved if he had a course of radiotherapy followed by chemotherapy.

A modest number of patients with lower grade tumours do manage to keep the illness at bay.

Former England fast bowler Alan Igglesden was diagnosed with a grade two oligodendroglioma—similar to Ballesteros’s, though without the more dangerous astrocytes cells—and is regularly playing cricket almost 10 years later.

Even when tumours are not malignant—grade three or four — they tend become worse with time, said Pilkington, who is an advisor to charity Brain Tumour UK.

“You are ultimately sitting on a time bomb. The low grade tumour will become a high grade tumour from which the patient will ultimately die”.

 

October 24, 2008




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