Beau Biden’s passing raises awareness of brain cancer

Beau Biden’s passing raises awareness of brain cancer

The death of the former Delaware attorney general, Beau Biden, has saddened many across the nation.

In 2010, Beau Biden suffered a minor stroke, and by August of 2013 he was diagnosed with brain cancer. Last April, after undergoing surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, he was feeling well enough to announce his plans to run for governor of Delaware in 2016. Last month, he was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and on May 30 he passed away.

The cause was brain cancer, said his father, Vice President Joe Biden. The Biden family has not disclosed the type of brain cancer Beau Biden had, but the Washington Post speculated he most likely had a glioblastoma, which has a survival rate of less than two years.

It is not uncommon for a person diagnosed with an aggressive malignant brain tumor to die of brain cancer despite surgery and other follow-up treatment, medical experts say.

“This is especially common with glioblastomas since there is no true cure,” said Dr. Juan Alzate, a neurosurgeon on staff at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill. “The survival rate with all of the best treatments is 16 to 18 months.”

According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS), glioblastomas accounts for about 52 percent of all tumors that start in the brain. They tend to occur in adults 45 to 70 years old and men are more likely to get them than women.

When surgery is performed, the physician’s primary objective is to remove as much of the tumor as possible without injuring normal brain tissue.

However, tumor cells from this type of cancer often invade surrounding tissue, making it impossible to ever remove the tumor entirely, according to the AANS. Surgery can help relieve some symptoms and improve quality of life, but it’s unlikely to result in prolonged remission.

“Even with complete removal of the tumor, the patient is not cured of the condition,” Dr. Alzate says. “There are trials currently going on with vaccines, but these are still in the very early stages.”

While the prognosis is not promising for patients diagnosed with glioblastomas, it is important for people to remember that not all brain tumors are malignant and many can be cured with surgery, says Dr. Alzate.

Symptoms of glioblastomas depend largely on the size and location of the tumor.

“If the tumor is located next to the motor area, you may experience weakness,” says Dr. Alzate. “A tumor in the speech area of the brain would likely result in difficulty speaking or slurred speech. A tumor in the frontal area may result in symptoms of behavior changes or difficulty with memory.”

Initially, glioblastomas are diagnosed with an MRI, which shows the tumor’s location and size.

“The final diagnosis of the tumor for glioblastoma is not known until after a sample of the tumor is evaluated by pathology,” says Dr. Alzate.

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  1. I am sorry for the Biden’s loss, however why is it the society raises awareness and jumps on the band wagon for cause only after it affects someone in the publics eye???

    I have yet to be part of a walk or a fundraiser for brain cancer, yet my mother passed away 3 years ago from the exact same diagnosis!

    ALL cancers matter, NOT just the “Popular” ones with the “popular” people.

    • You should know by now about one-half of Advocate’s health enews headlines are either lies, misleading or grossly exaggerate. While I do from time to time find some of the articles informative and without bias, overall the product is an example of poor journalism.

  2. You are right.
    I have felt the same as you.
    With my father and then my mother.
    If I have learned anything, I have learned that as a human I like shiny things – like a squirrel – I see a shine and I’m apt to stop and pick it up.
    This is how I am with issues such as this. Something shines – or catches my attention, I see a name with which I’m familiar and I stop to pay attention.
    Your mother is as important as any one else. I, unfortunately don’t know her name, so I may not have heard, but she is in everyday as necessary a part of this world as anyone else.
    It is just that her role in life was was different than Biden’s.
    We know this name and will be made aware. The lesson I took aware from reading about his death is this:
    Normal people who you might think had a better than average diet and general health is dead from cancer – cancer in the brain. I think of all the cancer I hear about, all the people I have heard of dying from cancer – now your mother too!
    And I think, “I too have had cancer, I have a daughter I want to be able to live a long healthy life, I want to give her the best odds with a healthy diet and changes in our life that can help keep the earth environmentally safe for her generation and those to come.”
    So this article and Biden’s name is an opportunity for other to hear one more piece of what is happening to us as a people, as a earth.
    Take care dear. Blessings.

  3. How often is brain cancer screening done as part of an annual physical exam???? I’ll bet the percentage is very low…

  4. I am a volunteer at Relay For Life. This is a community event celebrating those with Cancer, remembering those who couragous fight ended. We recognize ALL Cancers, no one is greater than the other. I seem to meet people every where I go that have Cancer or know of someone with Cancer. I give out the 1 800 227 2345 to call for free services or go onto You can go on select a city closest to you to see when they are having a Relay For Life in your area. No we don’t run. We walk a track from 4 pm to Midnight or have a person on the track during that time to represent our goal of giving a cancer patient another birthday. We have games for all ages, music and people can share their struggles and accomplishments with this terrible disease. Hope to see you at an event.

  5. Why didn’t they inject the tumor with polio like on 60mins?

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About the Author

Kathleen Troher
Kathleen Troher

Kathleen Troher, health enews contributor, is manager of public affairs and marketing at Advocate Good Sheperd Hospital in Barrington. She has more than 20 years of journalism experience, with her primary focus in the newspaper and magazine industry. Kathleen graduated from Columbia College in Chicago, earning her degree in journalism with an emphasis on science writing and broadcasting. She loves to travel with her husband, Ross. They share their home with a sweet Samoyed named Maggie.