November 5, 2004 in Nation/World

Edwards’ wife diagnosed with cancer

Matea Gold and Susannah Rosenblatt Los Angeles Times
Associated Press photo

Sen. John Edwards with his wife, Elizabeth, and their daughter Cate look to supporters following Sen. John Kerry’s concession speech Wednesday at Faneuil Hall in Boston.
(Full-size photo)

BOSTON – Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of the former Democratic vice presidential nominee, was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after her husband and Sen. John Kerry conceded the election.

Edwards, the 55-year-old wife of North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, had discovered a lump in her right breast while campaigning last week, according to spokesman David Ginsberg. A family physician advised her last Friday that it appeared to be cancerous and urged her to see a specialist.

Elizabeth Edwards put off the appointment in order not to miss the final days of the campaign.

But minutes after Kerry conceded the election Wednesday afternoon in a speech at Boston’s Faneuil Hall, Edwards and her family went to Massachusetts General Hospital, where she had a needle biopsy performed.

Dr. Barbara Smith confirmed that Edwards had invasive ductal cancer, Ginsberg said Thursday. It is the most common type of breast cancer, and can spread from the milk ducts to other parts of the body.

Edwards was undergoing more tests to determine how far the cancer has advanced and how to treat it, he said.

“They are very upbeat and optimistic about beating this,” Ginsberg said.

The North Carolina senator released a statement calling his wife “as strong a person as I’ve ever known.”

“Together, our family will beat this,” he said.

The senator and his wife flew home to Raleigh Wednesday evening and have not yet decided where she will seek treatment.

Invasive ductal breast cancer accounts for 70 percent to 80 percent of all breast cancer cases.

Treatment and prognosis depend on how early the tumor is detected and how far it has spread before treatment begins. Oncologists generally use surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and hormone therapy in various combinations, depending on the severity of the disease.

If the cancer is detected before it has spread to more than a few lymph nodes, the prognosis is very good and there is a high likelihood of a cure. The more the cancer has spread, the lower the likelihood of successful treatment.

Elizabeth Edwards charmed audiences along the campaign trail with her warm, self-effacing tone and gracious manner.

She was often accompanied by her two children, 6-year-old Emma Claire and 4-year-old Jack, who were born through in vitro fertilization after the death of her eldest child. She and her husband also have a 22-year-old daughter, Cate.

Their son Wade was killed in a 1996 car accident when he was 16.

On the campaign trail, the media often described Mrs. Edwards as “real” and down-to-earth. She described herself as the “anti-Barbie,” comfortable with her weight and her husband’s youthful looks. The former bankruptcy lawyer stumped across the country for the Kerry-Edwards ticket, hammering President Bush on issues including terrorism, abortion and veterans’ benefits.

She maintained a vigorous travel schedule in battleground states and throughout the presidential race, introducing her husband at the Democratic National Convention in Boston in July.

Elizabeth Edwards grew up in Florida and overseas, the child of a naval officer. She met her husband at the University of North Carolina Law School in Chapel Hill, where they were students. The couple married in 1977.

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