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Cancer Vaccines, Top Health Stories Of The Year

Every week, reporter Jessica Marcy selects interesting reading from around the Web.

Zocalo Public Square: How Doctors Die
Years ago, Charlie, a highly respected orthopedist and a mentor of mine, found a lump in his stomach. He had a surgeon explore the area, and the diagnosis was pancreatic cancer. … He went home the next day, closed his practice, and never set foot in a hospital again. He focused on spending time with family and feeling as good as possible. Several months later, he died at home. He got no chemotherapy, radiation, or surgical treatment. Medicare didn’t spend much on him. It’s not a frequent topic of discussion, but doctors die, too. And they don’t die like the rest of us. What’s unusual about them is not how much treatment they get compared to most Americans, but how little (Dr. Ken Murray, 11/30).

Health Affairs: An MS Patient Loses Trust When She Finds Out Her Doctor Is Paid By Drug Companies
Last year, four years after showing initial symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS), I walked out the door of one neurologist’s office and, after several months of searching, switched to a different doctor. It was the final act in a series of events that had gradually eroded my trust in the first neurologist’s judgment, which I believe was colored by his financial relationships with drug companies who manufacture and market medicines for MS patients. … Given my background in medical ethics, I was familiar with the potential conflicts of interest that exist for physicians participating in clinical pharmaceutical trials. Assuming that my neurologist was being compensated for running the trial, in addition to his earnings from seeing patients in his neurology practice, I’d asked him if that was the case, and he confirmed that it was (Maran Wolston, December 2011).

The New Republic: More Health Care Heresy From Newt
Newt Gingrich’s past endorsement of an individual mandate has drawn fire from conservatives. But that’s not his only health care heresy. In 2008, Gingrich made the case for another idea that became part of Obamacare and, in due time, the focus of right-wing attacks. Worse still, at least from the standpoint of conservatives, he did so by writing an op-ed for The New York Times. Oh, and did I mention he had some help? Gingrich had a co-author: John Kerry, the Democratic senator and former presidential nominee. … they also acknowledged that ultimately the private sector couldn’t solve this problem on its own. More action was necessary, they said, and that action had to come from government … That’s the problem for Gingrich when it comes to improving the delivery of health care. He isn’t crazy. But plenty of influential conservatives are (Jonathan Cohn, 12/13).

Newsweek: Could This Be The End Of Cancer?
By all rights, Shari Baker should have said her final goodbyes years ago. In 2005, more than a year after three doctors dismissed a lump under her arm as a harmless cyst, she was diagnosed with stage IV (metastatic) breast cancer … In May 2006, she traveled to the University of Washington. The (cancer) vaccine was injected into her upper arm; she got five more shots over the next five months. Today, with scans detecting no cancer anywhere, Baker seems to have beaten some extremely stiff odds. … By “cancer vaccine,” scientists mean something that will stimulate the immune system to attack malignant cells(Sharon Begley, 12/12).

The Atlantic: The Top 10 Health Stories Of 2011
Coffee is good for you. And coffee is bad for you. Cell phones cause cancer. And cell phones don’t cause cancer. Like any other year in health, 2011 was one of conflicting studies. In the end, we’re not always sure how to act or what to drink or when to exercise, but we do know more about ourselves and the world we live in thanks to researchers everywhere and the work that they do. However broad or specific their conclusions, however small or large their sample size, medical studies do contribute to our wellbeing simply by existing and, if nothing else, by making us think twice about the things we eat, say, and do on a daily basis (Nicholas Jackson, 12/14).

The Daily Show: Ed Gillespie
Jon Stewart talks health care with Republican political strategist Ed Gillespie (12/8).