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Debunking Common Myths About Cancer

TeamAckoMay 13, 2024

Cancer is a complex disease. There are over 100 types of cancer, each with its specific characteristics, treatment options, and outcomes. The types, causes and symptoms are wide-ranging, and thus there’s misinformation which gives rise to myths. Believing in such myths can lead to unnecessary worry or delay in seeking proper medical care or a suitable life insurance cover with relevant add-ons. Let’s discuss some of the common myths about cancer so that you can make informed decisions. 

Debunking

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10 common myths about cancer and corresponding facts

Here are ten myths and facts related to cancer. 

1. Myth: Cancer is contagious

Fact: Cancer is not contagious; you cannot catch it from someone else. 

Cancer occurs when there are changes or mutations in the genes of a cell resulting in tumours.

These changes can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, lifestyle choices and exposure to environmental toxins. It cannot be spread from person to person through contact, such as touching or kissing.However, some viruses can increase the risk of developing certain types of cancer, such as human papillomavirus (HPV) and hepatitis B and C.

These viruses can be spread through sexual contact or sharing needles, but cancer itself is still not contagious. It is important to practise safe sex and take other preventive measures to reduce the risk of contracting these viruses and developing associated cancers.

2. Myth: Cancer is always a death sentence

Fact: A cancer diagnosis is not necessarily a death sentence. 

Not all types of cancer are fatal, and survival rates have increased significantly in recent years. While cancer can be a serious and life-threatening disease, many people can undergo treatment and live long, healthy lives after a cancer diagnosis.

Early detection, better treatments, and improved screening have all contributed to improved outcomes.The outcome of cancer treatment depends on many factors, including the type of cancer, its stage at diagnosis, the individual's overall health and medical history, and the effectiveness of treatment.

Some types of cancer are more treatable than others. Advances in cancer research and treatment have led to improved results for many patients.While cancer treatment can be challenging and may have side effects, many people can work with their healthcare team tomanage symptoms and maintain their quality of life throughout the treatment process.

Individuals with cancer need to seek medical care and support, follow their treatment plan, and take steps to maintain their physical and emotional health throughout their journey.

3. Myth: Only people with a family history of cancer can get cancer

Fact: While genetics can play a role in the development of some types of cancer, the majority of cases occur in people without a family history of the disease. 

Cancer can develop due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors, such as lifestyle choices, exposure to certain substances, and other factors that can damage cells and lead to the development of cancer. It's important to be aware of your family history of cancer and take steps to reduce your risk of developing the disease, but having a family history of cancer doesn't necessarily mean that you will develop cancer.

4. Myth: Sugar causes cancer

Fact: There is no direct evidence to suggest that sugar causes cancer. 

While it is true that cancer cells require glucose (a type of sugar) to grow, there is no evidence to suggest that sugar consumption causes cancer. Eating a healthy, balanced diet that includes moderate amounts of sugar is unlikely to increase your risk of cancer. Obesity is a risk factor for several types of cancer, including breast, colon, and pancreatic cancer.

While sugar itself may not directly cause cancer, it's important to maintain a balanced and healthy diet to reduce the risk of obesity and other health problems that can increase the risk of cancer. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins is recommended, while sugary and high-calorie foods should be consumed in moderation.

5. Myth: Alternative therapies can cure cancer

Fact: There is no scientific evidence to support the claim that alternative therapies can cure cancer. 

Alternative therapies are generally defined as treatments that are not part of standard medical care, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery. Examples of alternative therapies include herbal remedies, acupuncture, massage therapy, and dietary supplements.While some alternative therapies may help manage symptoms and improve the quality of life for cancer patients, there is no evidence to suggest that they can cure cancer.

Relying solely on alternative therapies instead of standard medical care can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening. It is important to discuss any complementary or alternative therapies with your healthcare team to ensure they are safe and effective.

6. Myth: Cancer only affects older people

Fact: Cancer does not only affect older people. 

While it is true that the risk of developing cancer increases with age, cancer can occur at any age, from children to young adults to older adults. Certain types of cancer, such as leukaemia and lymphoma, are more common in children and young adults, while other types, such as breast cancer and prostate cancer, are more common in older adults. Additionally, there are certain risk factors, such as genetics and exposure to certain substances, that can increase the likelihood of developing cancer regardless of age.

7. Myth: A biopsy can cause cancer to spread

Fact: A biopsy is a common procedure used to diagnose cancer. It cannot cause cancer to spread. A biopsy is a medical procedure in which a sample of tissue is removed from the body for examination under a microscope to determine whether cancer or other abnormal cells are present.

While there is a small risk of complications, such as bleeding or infection, there is no evidence to suggest that a biopsy can cause cancer to spread. A biopsy is often necessary to accurately diagnose the type and stage of cancer, which can help guide treatment decisions.

If you have concerns or questions about a biopsy or any other aspect of your cancer care, it is important to speak with your healthcare team, who can provide you with accurate and reliable information.

8. Myth: Cancer is always painful

Fact: While some types of cancer can cause pain, not all cancers are painful. 

Whether or not cancer is painful depends on several factors, including the type of cancer, its stage, and its location in the body.

Some types of cancer, such as pancreatic cancer and bone cancer, can be particularly painful due to the location of cancer or the way it affects surrounding tissues. Other types of cancer, such as early-stage prostate cancer or some types of skin cancer, may not cause any pain at all.It's also worth noting that pain can be managed effectively with medication and other therapies. It is important to be aware of any changes in your body and to talk to your doctor if you have any concerns. Early detection and treatment can improve outcomes and reduce the risk of complications.

9. Myth: Superfoods can prevent cancer

Fact: While some foods are rich in nutrients and may be beneficial for overall health, no one food or superfood can prevent or cure cancer. 

Eating a healthy and balanced diet with items like whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean meat and healthy fats can help reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer.

Keep in mind that there is no guarantee that any specific food or nutrient can prevent cancer.Some studies have suggested that certain compounds found in foods, such as antioxidants and phytochemicals, may have cancer-fighting properties.

For example, studies have shown that the antioxidants in fruits and vegetables can help protect cells from damage that can lead to cancer. However, more research is needed to fully understand the impact of these compounds on cancer prevention.It is important to note that a healthy diet is just one part of a comprehensive cancer prevention plan.

Other factors that can help reduce the risk of cancer include maintaining a healthy weight, getting regular exercise, avoiding tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption, and getting recommended cancer screenings.

10. Myth: Mammograms cause breast cancer.

Fact: Mammograms use low-dose radiation to create images of breast tissue. They are safe and effective in detecting breast cancer early when it's most treatable. 

It is an important screening tool for detecting breast cancer. While there is a small amount of radiation exposure associated with mammograms, the benefits of early detection and treatment of breast cancer far outweigh the risks.

It is important for women to discuss the benefits and risks of mammography with their healthcare provider and to follow recommended screening guidelines based on their risk factors.

There are several reasons why there are so many myths about cancer. Here’s a list.

Lack of scientific understanding

Cancer is a complex disease, and scientists are still learning how it develops and spreads. As a result, there are many unknowns and uncertainties about cancer, which can lead to misinformation and myths.

Fear and anxiety

Cancer is a scary and often deadly disease, and many people are afraid of getting it. This fear leads to rumours and myths about what causes it and how to prevent or cure it.

Misinformation from unreliable sources

With the rise of the internet and social media, it has become easier for misinformation to spread quickly. Unfortunately, many unreliable sources, such as alternative medicine practitioners and conspiracy theorists, spread false information about cancer that can be harmful.

Language and terminology

The language used to describe cancer can be confusing and misleading. Terms such as "cancerous" and "benign" can be misinterpreted, leading to misunderstandings about the nature of cancer.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here’s a list of common questions and answers related to common myths about cancer.

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What are the common risk factors resulting in cancer?

Family history, age, certain medical conditions, unhealthy lifestyle (smoking and excessive alcohol consumption) and exposure to harmful substances are some of the common risk factors that can result in cancer.

What are the treatments for cancer?

Depending on your health, the type and stage of your cancer, your doctor will advise the correct treatment. It may include surgery or chemotherapy or radiation therapy or immunotherapy or a combination of multiple procedures.

What are some of the preventive measures to be taken against cancer?

Early detection of cancer is critical for successful treatment and better results. As individuals, we should go for regular health checkups and screenings. It is advisable to live a healthy lifestyle and avoid the use of cancer-causing substances.

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