What happened
A spokesperson for Patrick Swayze, 55, confirmed this week that the actor is battling pancreatic cancer. A doctor treating Swayze, best known for his roles in Dirty Dancing and Ghost, said a report in the National Enquirer that Swayze had just five weeks to live was "absolutely untrue." The doctor said Swayze was continuing to work, had a "limited amount of the disease" and was responding well to treatment. (The Boston Globe, free registration)

What the commentators said
The Enquirer should be ashamed of how it handled the news of Swayze's illness, said Roger Friedman in FOX News. "The Enquirer doesn't care what it writes, true or false, or a little bit of both," but this time the scoop involved "a man's life." It's too bad that Swayze's PR people kept the story quiet so long. They could have spared the family and Swayze's many fans some pain.

The saddest part about the shocking tabloid story was that it was so close to the truth, said Stuart Heritage in Hecklerspray. Swayze's doctor promptly dismissed the "five-week story," but pancreatic cancer is a swift killer. "Patrick Swayze has effectively been handed a very specific ticking clock that everyone can see."

At least the publicity surrounding the actor's diagnosis and the outpouring of support might do some good, said Tara Parker-Pope in The New York Times' Well blog. Pancreatic cancer is almost always fatal, with a five-year survival rate of just 5 percent. It killed opera great Luciano Pavarotti and actor Michael Landon, "but despite striking the famous, the disease gets comparatively less attention" and less research funding than other cancers.