Sam Champion Skin Cancer, Surgery at breakfast time is the latest odd television trend. ABC weatherman Sam Champion will have skin cancer cells removed from his shoulder live on “Good Morning America” on Wednesday, publicizing his own health issues to make viewers more aware of their own.
All three network morning show have gone into operating rooms or doctors’ offices the past two months. CBS’ Harry Smith had a live colonoscopy on “The Early Show” in March, cheered on by Katie Couric, who did the same thing when she was on the “Today” show in 2000.
A “Today” series in March showed live brain and heart surgeries, and the birth of a baby by cesarean section.
“It’s not a new phenomenon, but it’s definitely escalating,” said Dr. Barron Lerner, a Columbia University Medical Center historian and author of “When Illness Goes Public: Celebrity Patients and How We Look at Medicine.”
There was a spate of surgeries on the air in the 1950s, mostly shot by a single camera and aired in prime-time documentaries, he said. Now morning is the most common venue.
Champion tested positive for basal cell carcinoma and will have the spot removed during a micrographic procedure done at the office of his doctor, Michele Pauporte. He’s had four such areas of skin cancer removed in the past.
May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month.
“A lot of people never, ever go see their doctors for these issues and they should,” said Jim Murphy, senior executive producer of “Good Morning America.” He’s had 10 areas of skin cancer removed from his own body.
Murphy said he thinks it provides an important service, that he’s often approached by people who say they’ve had medical conditions checked out after seeing something on “Good Morning America.”
Lerner said it is likely a reflection of the increasing interest in health and diseases.
“You might call it the `Dr. Oz Phenomenon,’” Lerner said. “Pretty much everything related to our physical health is a central topic.”
Couric’s colonoscopy, performed two years after her husband died of colon cancer, triggered a surge in people all over the country checking the health of their colons. Couric, now at CBS, cheered Smith on for his procedure.
ABC is confident Champion’s procedure “is not going to be gross to watch and I know it’s not going to be dangerous.”
It might be different someday for some of the more complicated medical procedures: What happens if something goes seriously wrong while the television cameras roll? The brain surgery on “Today” carried much more dramatic risks; it also made for some fascinating television, Murphy said
“Our level of risk is very small,” he said. “I don’t know if I’d feel the same way about other things on live TV.”
There’s a danger of members of the public being too influenced by celebrity medicine and not paying attention to their own doctors, Lerner said. Overall, he said the awareness created by these stories make them a good thing.
He still finds it strange how many celebrities are interested in publicly talking about their medical issues.
“When you’re dealing with an illness, you should be dealing with an illness, and not how it is presented to the public,” he said.