Senator Edward M. Kennedy is undergoing surgery for his malignant brain tumor at Duke University this morning, his office announced today.
The surgery is to begin about 9 a.m. and will last approximately six hours.
In a statement released at shortly before 6:30 a.m., Kennedy said he would be operated on by Dr. Allan Friedman at the Duke University Medical Center and expects to recuperate there for about a week.
In the weeks and months after the surgery, Kennedy will begin a regimen of radiation and chemotherapy at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, according to the statement.
Kennedy sailed in Hyannis Port yesterday morning, then flew to North Carolina with his wife, Victoria Reggie Kennedy yesterday afternoon. He was admitted to the hospital after his arrival.
The surgery follows a meeting at Mass General on Friday, during which cancer experts from around the country discussed his course of treatment. At that meeting, Kennedy's own doctors were joined by doctors from the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute, as well as Friedman himself, according to a Kennedy intimate. At the end of the meeting, there was near unanimous agreement that he would have surgery at Duke, the confidante said.
The surgery comes as something of a surprise because, after the initial diagnosis was made nearly two weeks ago, Kennedy's doctors did not mention surgery as a treatment option. Rather, they limited their focus to radiation and chemotherapy, and later, Kennedy associates hinted that he would seek experimental drug treatments.
The surgery is considered the most aggressive approach he could take in addressing his malignant brain tumor.
Kennedy, in a brief but upbeat statement, signaled that he would wait until all treatments were concluded before returning to Washington and the floor of the Senate. That return won't likely take place until September, after the Senate returns from its summer recess.
"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 in the statement.
Before leaving for North Carolina, Kennedy telephoned Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, both to tell him of his plans and to highlight two significant pieces of legislation that Kennedy has in the works: higher education reauthorization and mental health parity, Kennedy aides said. The senator also called Senators Christopher Dodd and Barbara Mikulski to ask their help in shepherding the bills through their respective conference committees.
Kennedy is joined in North Carolina by his wife, his son Patrick, and his sister, Jean.