Cancer Myths & Facts

Cancer Myths & Facts

1. Myth: Cancer leads to death.

Fact: About one-third of cancers can be cured if they are detected and treated at an early stage.

Early recognition and treatment of cancer significantly lowers the risk of disease spreading to other parts of the body, prolongs survival and causes the symptoms to disappear in many cases. Many cancer patients with breast, prostate, and thyroid cancers have a good prognosis if cancer is detected early.

2. Myth: Cancer is contagious.

Fact: No. Cancer is not a contagious disease that spreads from person to person.

Cancer cannot spread from person to person except through an organ transplant. The likelihood of developing transplant-related cancer may be increased if an individual receives a tissue or organ from a donor who previously had cancer. However, the risk is exceptionally low, with a frequency of 2 cases per 10,000 organ transplants. This is because doctors refrain from using tissues or organs from donors with a history of cancer.

Some viruses and bacteria, such as the human papillomavirus (HPV) or Helicobacter pylori, may contribute to the development of cancer in certain individuals. While a virus or bacteria can spread from person to person, the cancers they can cause cannot be transmitted between individuals.

3. Myth: Cancer is unavoidable if it runs in the family.

Fact: A Family history of cancer does not always mean you are susceptible to cancer.

Although cancer can be caused by an abnormal gene that is inherited, the inherited gene does not always result in cancer. The risk of developing cancer may be decreased with simple lifestyle modifications, which include no smoking, healthy eating habits, and an active lifestyle.

4. Myth: Herbal products can cure cancer.

Fact: No herbal products have been proven effective in curing cancer, although some studies suggest that complementary or alternative medicines, including some herbs, may help patients manage the adverse effects of cancer treatment.

Additionally, certain herbal products may even be harmful if taken alongside chemotherapy or radiotherapy as they may impair the efficacy of these therapies. Cancer patients should discuss with their doctors before taking any complementary and alternative medicine products, including any vitamins and herbal supplements.

5. Myth: Cancer surgery or biopsy cause cancer to spread to other parts of the body.

Fact: It is extremely unlikely that surgery will spread cancer to other body parts.

Per standard procedures, surgeons employ unique techniques and take extra precautions to prevent the spread of cancer cells during biopsies or surgeries to remove tumours.

6. Myth: Radiotherapy causes people to become radioactive.

Fact: People who receive external radiotherapy do not become radioactive. This is because the radiation does not remain in the body during or after treatment.

However, radiation from injections or implants used in internal radiotherapy may remain in your body for a few days as a precaution. It may require you to stay at the hospital for a few days. Therefore, it is vital to follow your doctor’s advice regarding any safety measures that need to be taken following radiotherapy.

7. Myth: A positive attitude can cure cancer.

Fact: There is currently no solid scientific evidence connecting a person's "attitude" to their likelihood of developing or preventing cancer.

It is common to experience various emotions when you have cancer. However, relaxation techniques and a great support system may promote positive thinking and improve a person's quality of life.

8. Myth: Stress causes cancer.

Fact: Stress does not increase the risk of developing cancer.

Studies that have tracked a large number of subjects over an extended period showed no indication that individuals who experience more stress have a higher risk of developing cancer.

9. Myth: Plastic bottles and containers cause cancer.

Fact: The use of plastics does not increase the risk of cancer. Food and beverages kept in bisphenol A (BPA)-containing plastic containers do not cause cancer.

According to studies, some chemicals in plastics may end up in foods and beverages. However, the levels are extremely low and within the safe limit for humans. Nonetheless, these tests involve either lab-grown human cells or animals and do not resemble how most people would interact with plastic daily. They also provide insufficient evidence on the risk of cancer in humans.

10. Myth: Eating burnt food increases the risk of cancer.

Fact: Acrylamide from burnt food is unlikely to raise the risk of cancer.

Acrylamide is a chemical found in starch-filled foods such as bread and potatoes cooked for a long time at high temperatures. Reliable studies are yet to prove that acrylamide from food causes cancer in humans.

11. Myth: Injuries can cause cancer.

Fact: Bumps, bruises or other injuries do not cause cancer.

When treating a patient for an injury, doctors may occasionally discover a tumour but the injury did not cause the cancer.

12. Myth: Genetically modified (GM) foods cause cancer

Fact: There is no evidence that eating genetically modified foods leads to cancer in humans.

Some individuals may be concerned that GM foods are unnatural and potentially harmful. However, it is important to remember that this process modifies the genetic makeup of the foods we consume, but it has no association with cancer. Due to GM foods' novelty, research is ongoing to ensure there are no long-term health impacts.

13. Myth: Artificial sweeteners cause cancer

Fact: Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame do not cause cancer.

Some foods and beverages use artificial sweeteners instead of sugar. When consumed within the daily limits, artificial sweeteners are not harmful and these limits go beyond what most individuals would have in a single day. For example, the daily limit for aspartame would equate to 12 cans of diet soda.

Your overall diet (what you consume on a daily basis) is more significant than certain ingredients or foods to reduce your risk of developing cancer.

Make an appointment at Gleneagles Hospitals

If you experience any signs and symptoms of cancer or would like to be screened for cancer, get in touch with us to find out more about our Oncology Services at your nearest Gleneagles Hospital.

Gleneagles Hospital works with oncologists to assist patients through cancer treatment. The caring and multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals are available for consultation and to provide the best care.

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