Myths About Cancer

There are many misconceptions and myths surrounding cancer and its treatment. This causes confusion and unnecessary fear among patients and their caregivers.

This handout hopes to dispel some of these myths. If you have any additional questions or cause for concern, please feel free to consult your physician, nurse, or any counsellors.

A positive attitude can cure cancer. False

There is no scientific proof suggesting that a positive attitude will cure or beat cancer. However, a positive attitude does allow you to live a good quality of life. Having a positive attitude will help you make goals, plan your life, and be more engaged in your treatment. This way you will be able to take care of your health. It will also help you reach out to your loved ones for support.

If I take chemotherapy, I will not be able to go out and do my usual activities. False

A lot of effort has gone into making chemotherapy comfortable for patients. Many people opt to work part-time or continue working full time. Two of the possible side effects of chemotherapy are fatigue and decreased white blood cell count (leading to increased risk of infections). The fatigue may not allow you to be as active as you were prior to treatment. Sometimes even the cancer itself can lead to fatigue or weakness, due to which you may have to cut down on your usual activities. Furthermore, due to increased risk of infection, it is also advised that you do not go to closed, crowded places. Although certain adjustments have to be made, these DO NOT have to permanently curtail your activities. You just have to be careful (maybe more than you have been in the past), and avoid pushing yourself too much, too soon.

Treating cancer with surgery causes it to spread throughout the body. False

Treating cancer with surgery does not cause it to spread throughout the body. Surgery removes the malignant lump. At times, all the cancer cells are not removed with surgery, as they may be too small to detect. This is when surgery is followed by “adjuvant” chemotherapy or radiation. This ensures that any remaining cancer cells are destroyed. Surgery is an important part of treatment in some cases.

Cancer is always painful. False

Cancer is not always painful; but there may be painful episodes. There are times when the tumor causes pain as they may be putting pressure on a nerve or a muscle. Most cancers in the early stages, however, do not cause pain. Pain can also be experienced during and post treatment. Nowadays, newer pain medications will effectively control any pain and allow you to maintain a good quality of life. Certain alternative treatments, such as relaxation techniques or Reiki also help in pain management.

Everyone with the same kind of cancer gets the same kind of treatment. False

Treatment is tailored to individual needs. The type of cancer, how much it has spread, and general health and body functions will determine your treatment. Cells from the same type of cancer might have different features in different people. These differences will affect how the cancer responds to treatment. The doctor, therefore, will be the best judge of what treatment option to follow.

Cancer is contagious. False

No type of cancer is contagious. Certain viruses such as HPV or Hepatitis C virus are contagious and can cause cancer. These viruses, however, are spread through unprotected sexual intercourse or by sharing needles.

All information sources are accurate. False

All information sources are NOT accurate. It is important that you go to reliable sources of information. Sometimes Internet sites and blogs may provide inaccurate information. Also, these sites may provide general information, when what you need is individual and more specific information. Please consult your physician or counsellor and ask them to refer you to accurate sources of information.

All lumps are cancerous. False

All lumps are not cancerous. There are certain fibrous lumps that are benign. Once a lump is detected, it is very important that you get it checked by a doctor and get appropriate tests conducted. Whether a lump is malignant can be determined only after tests such as mammograms and CT scans.

If parents have cancer, their children will definitely get cancer. False:

If any parent or first-degree relative has cancer, there is a no guarantee that the child will develop cancer. Some cancers such as breast, ovarian, and colon cancer are genetic, however, it does not definitely mean that one will develop cancer. Having a genetic history of cancer only increases the chance or likelihood of risk.

Coping With Cancer


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