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Separating Cancer Myths from Facts

March 06, 2024

Cancer is a complex and often misunderstood disease, surrounded by a multitude of myths that can create confusion and anxiety. In order to empower individuals with accurate information, it's essential to separate cancer myths from facts. Here are the top myths we hear related to a cancer diagnosis.

Myth 1: Cancer is Always Fatal

Fact: While cancer can be a serious and life-threatening disease, not all cancers are fatal. Early detection, advances in precision cancer treatment, and supportive care have significantly improved survival rates for many types of cancer. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment play a crucial role in achieving positive outcomes. The prognosis varies depending on factors such as cancer type, stage, and overall health. Be sure to discuss screening for cancer with your doctor at your next visit. 

Myth 2: Cancer is Contagious

Fact: Cancer is not contagious. It cannot be transmitted through physical contact, such as hugging, shaking hands, or even sexual activity. Cancer develops due to changes in a person's own cells and is not caused by exposure to another person with cancer.

Myth 3: Only Smoking Causes Lung Cancer

Fact: While smoking is a major risk factor for lung cancer, it's not the only cause. Non-smokers can also develop lung cancer due to factors like exposure to secondhand smoke, environmental pollutants, and genetic predisposition. Smoking also increases the risk of other cancers, including bladder cancer, gynecologic cancer, and head and neck cancers.


Myth 4: Cancer is Caused by Bad Luck or a Single Factor

Fact: Cancer is a multifactorial disease influenced by a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. While some cases may be due to genetic mutations or chance, many cancers can be prevented or managed through adopting a healthy lifestyle and avoiding known risk factors.

Myth 5: Cancer Treatment Always Causes Severe Side Effects

Fact: While cancer treatments can have side effects, not everyone experiences severe symptoms. Advances in treatment techniques, medications, and supportive care have led to better management of side effects, and many patients tolerate treatment well.

Myth 6: Alternative Therapies Can Cure Cancer

Fact: Alternative therapies may have some benefits in managing symptoms or improving quality of life, but they are not proven substitutes for conventional medical treatments like surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy. It's crucial to discuss any complementary or alternative treatments with your healthcare provider.

Myth 7: Cancer Doesn’t Run in My Family, So I Don’t Need to Worry.

Fact: Most cancers will occur in patients who have no family history of relatives with cancer. Therefore, screening is still essential, and should be discussed with your healthcare provider. With early detection and appropriate treatment, many individuals with cancer go on to live healthy, productive lives. 

Myth 8: Superfoods Can Prevent or Cure Cancer

Fact: While a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is beneficial for overall health, there is no single food or superfood that can prevent or cure cancer on its own. A balanced diet, along with other healthy lifestyle choices, contributes to cancer prevention.

Myth 9: Cancer Can Spread When It Hits Air

Fact: Exposure to air does not cause the spread of cancer throughout the body. In fact, cancer typically spreads through the lymphatics or blood stream. Many cancers require surgery as a part of treatment for a possible cure. You should seek care with an experienced surgeon who is able to perform appropriate procedures to reduce your chances of cancer coming back, and guides you with any additional recommendations for treatment.

Myth 10: Eating Sugar Will Make My Cancer Grow

Fact: Sugar is a basic nutrient that is essential for your brain, heart, and liver for normal function. While cancer cells use sugar preferentially compared to normal cells, there are no studies that show eating sugar will make your cancer worse. Conversely, there are no studies that prove that stopping eating sugar will make your cancer disappear or shrink. A healthy diet is essential during your cancer diagnosis and treatment, and we encourage a healthy lifestyle with exercise and good nutrition and hydration for all cancer patients.

Dispelling cancer myths is essential to fostering a clear understanding of the disease and making well-informed decisions about your health. By arming yourself with accurate information, you can navigate your cancer journey with confidence and take proactive steps towards prevention, early detection, and effective treatment. Remember that your healthcare provider is a reliable source of information, and seeking their guidance is crucial for making the best choices for your individual health needs.