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Actress Valerie Harper says she has a new fight with terminal brain cancer, and only a short time to live, but this has not been her first run-in with cancer.
In an interview with People magazine, Harper, 73, says she has been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, a disease that might give her only three months to live. She says she's focusing on "being here now." The Hollywood star is best known for playing Rhoda Morgenstern on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and her own spinoff, Rhoda.Harper received the diagnosis on Jan. 15. She had gone to the hospital with stroke-like symptoms. Tests revealed she has leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, a rare condition that occurs when cancer cells spread into the fluid-filled membrane surrounding the brain.
"Most likely this is a recurrence of the lung cancer Valerie Harper battled in 2009,'' says Anders Cohen, chief of neurosurgery and spine surgery at The Brooklyn Hospital Center. He is not involved in her treatment.
"Cancer has a propensity to spread to other areas of the body, and the brain is the most common destination for disease to spread from its primary location due to its high blood supply 20% of the body's blood flow goes to the brain, and cancer often spreads through the blood supply. This is a subtype of metastatic disease.''
In leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, Cohen says, the disease lines the coating and the fluid canals of the brain, which makes it more difficult to treat than a solid tumor. It is typically treated with chemotherapy delivered directly to the brain through a catheter and with radiation.
Harper is getting treatment, which can extend survivability, Cohen says, but is not curative.
"Some people tolerate treatment well, and the treatment can often give a patient some quality time. There are some experimental treatments underway, but nothing definitive for improved outcome."
Ironically, Cohen says, her co-star Mary Tyler Moore "also suffered from a brain disease, but, fortunately, it was a meningioma (tumor), a benign disease with an excellent long-term prognosis."
The Associated Press