DURHAM, N.C. – Sen. Edward M. Kennedy checked out of a hospital Monday to return home to Massachusetts, a week after undergoing an aggressive and delicate surgery to treat a cancerous brain tumor, a hospital spokeswoman said.
Kennedy left the hospital Monday morning, Duke University Medical Center spokeswoman Melissa Schwarting said.
"His doctors are pleased with his progress since surgery a week ago, and he will continue to recuperate at home before starting the next phase of his treatment," Kennedy's office said in a statement. "He is thankful for the extraordinary care of the doctors and nurses at Duke, and also for the continued prayers and well wishes from the people of Massachusetts and all over the country."
The Massachusetts Democrat was diagnosed last month with a malignant glioma, a lethal type of brain tumor, after having a seizure at his Cape Cod home. A malignant glioma is one of the worst kinds of brain cancer, and malignant gliomas are diagnosed in about 9,000 Americans a year.
Kennedy, 76, underwent the risky, 3 1/2-hour surgery last Monday to remove as much of the tumor as possible, a procedure aimed at improving the success of chemotherapy and radiation. His surgeon at Duke, Dr. Allan Friedman, said Monday that Kennedy "is making an excellent recovery."
"He will continue his recuperation at home in Massachusetts under the supervision of the very capable doctors at the Massachusetts General Hospital," Friedman said in a statement.
Kennedy's son, Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., told the Providence Journal on Sunday that his father's surgery "went better than anyone expected." He said his father is looking forward to returning to the Senate and working with Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama on universal health care legislation should the Illinois senator win the White House.
"That is what he is talking and thinking about," Kennedy said. "It adds a great deal of poignancy to his recovery. But that's how he sees it — he has to recover so he can get health care for the millions of people who don't have access to the care that we do."
Kennedy told the newspaper that his father wants to begin writing the legislation this year so it would be ready if Obama was victorious.
Kennedy's family and doctors have released few details about the particular type of tumor, which plays a key role in determining his survival odds. Some cancer specialists have said Kennedy appears to have a glioblastoma multiforme — a serious and tough-to-remove type of tumor — because other kinds are more common in younger people.
Doctors familiar with the type of surgery have said it almost never leads to a cure, but radiation or chemotherapy treatments have a better chance of success because there's less tumor to fight.
"The senator and his wife Vicki are wonderful people, and I hope you will join me in wishing them the best as they continue their difficult journey to fight this disease," Friedman said. "Their courageous and positive attitude is a lesson for us all."