COMMENTS: The Big C

After John Edwards' Presidential campaign was thrust into unaccustomed prominence by the news of his wife's ill health, only NBC followed up by looking into the delicate question of whether Edwards' prospects have been enhanced by his wife's misfortune. "A blizzard of sympathetic stories" has been the "unintended result," Andrea Mitchell, found with $100,000 in unsolicited campaign contributions collected by an unaffiliated Website. NBC's in-house political analyst Chuck Todd told Mitchell that Elizabeth's relapse will reap benefits: he will "personally connect on the issue of healthcare" with millions of voters.

The safer, more obvious follow-up was on cancer itself. ABC's John McKenzie took A Closer Look at the survival prospects of the 20% of breast cancer patients whose tumors metastasize, as Elizabeth Edwards' has: if the cancer spreads to the bone it causes chronic pain. NBC's in-house physician Nancy Snyderman took the Edwards case as an example of the changing priorities in cancer care generally, less emphasis on finding cures, more on managing the disease as a chronic illness like diabetes, heart disease or HIV-AIDS. "There is now a place between cure and death--living with cancer and managing it day by day."

CBS skipped the topic, having already this week filed a two-parter Heal Thyself on cancer. On Wednesday, anchor Katie Couric profiled the ironic plight of Houston brain surgeon Sam Hassenbusch, who found a near-lethal tumor inside his own skull. Thursday, Couric followed up with an explanation of how cancer patients can join experimental clinical trials run by the National Cancer Institute. Dr Hassenbusch volunteered as a guinea pig in one of them.


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