“Rhoda” Has Terminal Brain Cancer

Valerie Harper has incurable leptomeningeal carcinomatosis

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) If you know “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” you know who Valerie Harper is. After being Mary’s sidekick, Harper's star continued to rise with her own spin-off, “Rhoda.”

In a recent interview with People magazine, the 73-year-old Harper revealed that she has a rare and incurable brain cancer called leptomeningeal carcinomatosis.

"Most likely this is a recurrence of the lung cancer Valerie Harper battled in 2009,'' Anders Cohen, MD, chief of neurosurgery and spine surgery at The Brooklyn Hospital Center, told USA Today.

Dr. Cohen is not involved in Harper's 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 percent 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,'' he said.

Dr. Cohen said that the type of cancer Harper has establishes itself in the coating and fluid canals of the brain. So it’s not really a solid tumor.

Harper is receiving treatment, but it’s not curative. Chemotherapy and radiation are the usual therapies.

The actress, who played the flamboyant, spunky native New Yorker, “Rhoda,” said she was diagnosed with the disease after going to the hospital with symptoms of a stroke.

That was January 15 of this year. Her prognosis at the time was three months.

Harper says she's not thinking about dying. Instead, she's focusing on "being here now."

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 6, 2013
Last Updated:
May 8, 2013