Diseases & Medicine

Myths about cancer that you need to know.

Cancer was responsible for 10 million deaths worldwide in 2020, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). It is a main cause of death worldwide.

In the United States, an estimated 39.5 percent of people will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives.

Myths tend to form around conditions that are very prevalent. As a result, it’s no surprise that cancer is frequently misunderstood.

The term “cancer” refers to a group of disorders that can affect any organ in the body. This diversity only adds to the uncertainty.

We want to dispel some myths and clarify this prevalent and diverse group of diseases in this post.

1. Cancer is a death sentence

Cancer is not a fatal disease. Cancer is not always fatal, despite the frightening numbers mentioned above.

Recovery rates are improving as scientists gain a better understanding of cancer and develop better treatments.

In January 2019, for example, there were an estimated 16.9 million cancer survivors in the United States. In the last 40 years, survival rates in the United Kingdom have doubled.

It’s also worth mentioning that survival statistics differ a lot depending on the sort of cancer you have. In the United Kingdom, for example, testicular cancer survival rates are 98 percent, but pancreatic cancer survival rates are below 1%.

The National Cancer Institute states:

“Since the 1990s, the risk of dying from cancer has progressively decreased in the United States. Some cancers, such as breast, prostate, and thyroid tumors, now have 5-year survival rates of 90% or higher. All cancers combined have a 5-year survival rate of around 67 percent.”

Overall, cancer death rates are decreasing, while some malignancies’ survival rates are increasing faster than others. An annual report on the status of cancer in the U.S., which appears in Cancer in 2020, concludes:

“From 2001 to 2017, cancer death rates declined 1.5 percent on average every year.”

2. Cancer is a contagious disease.

This is a popular misconception. Cancer is not spreadable. Cancer cannot be passed from one person to another.

Some sexually transmitted illnesses, such as the human papillomavirus (HPV) and hepatitis B and C, can cause cervix and liver malignancies. The cancer is caused by an infectious agent in these circumstances, but the cancer is not contagious.

Scientists have discovered that tumors in some animals, such as Tasmanian devils and dogs, can result in lethal transmissible cancers called devil face tumor illness and canine transmissible venereal tumor, respectively.

3. Cell phones cause cancer

There is no evidence that cell phones cause cancer as of now. The fact that these devices emit radiofrequency radiation (radio waves), a type of non-ionizing radiation, is one of the causes behind the myth. This radiation is absorbed by the body.

Ionizing radiation, such as X-rays, is known to raise the risk of cancer, according to scientists. Radiofrequency radiation, on the other hand, is non-ionizing and does not enhance the risk of cancer.

According to the National Cancer Institute:

“Despite the fact that numerous research have looked at the potential health consequences of non-ionizing radiation from radar, microwave ovens, mobile phones, and other sources, there is currently no consistent evidence that non-ionizing radiation raises cancer risk in people.”

4. Power lines are linked to cancer.

This, too, is a myth. Power lines emit extremely low frequency (ELF) magnetic fields that are non-ionizing and so do not cause cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society,

“Several major studies in rats and mice have looked into the impact of ELF magnetic fields on cancer. The animals in these trials are exposed to magnetic fields that are substantially stronger than what people are exposed to at home […] The majority of these studies have found no evidence of an increased risk of cancer of any kind. In fact, the animals exposed to ELF radiation had a decreased incidence of some types of cancer.”

However, according to the American Cancer Society, some studies have revealed a modest increase in the incidence of leukemia in children who reside near power lines. The causes for this, however, are unknown.

Dr. Joel Newman, a consultant hematologist and pathology speciality head at East Sussex Healthcare Trust in the United Kingdom. He puts the danger in context:

“We don’t have any solid evidence that mobile phones or power lines cause cancer, and there are many other things we do on a daily basis that put us at a much higher risk than these could ever put us at, such as smoking and drinking.”

5. Artificial sweeteners cause cancer

There is now no convincing evidence that artificial sweeteners raise the risk of cancer.

According to the National Cancer Institute, this myth may have evolved because of the following:

“When early research demonstrated that cyclamate in combination with saccharin induced bladder cancer in experimental animals, questions concerning artificial sweeteners and cancer arose.”

They do say, however, that additional research “has not given unequivocal evidence of a connection with cancer in humans.” Similarly, no strong evidence of a link with cancer in humans has been found in investigations of other [Food and Drug Administration (FDA)]-approved sweets.”

Similarly, a study looking at aspartame and cancer found no links between “aspartame use and lymphoma, leukemia, or brain cancer,” based on data from more than half a million people.

6. Cancer surgery causes cancer to spread

This is simply a part of the story. True, cancer surgery has the potential to spread the cancer, but this is an uncommon occurrence. According to the American Cancer Society:

“Advances in surgical technology and more detailed imaging tests have helped to keep this risk to a minimum.”

When a tumor is exposed to the air, it grows faster and spreads to other places of the body, according to a related myth. This is not the case.

7. Herbal treatments have the ability to treat cancer.

There is no proof that herbal medications can treat or cure cancer.

Alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, meditation, and yoga, may help some patients cope with the psychological burden of illness and some of the adverse effects of cancer therapy.

Just because something is “natural” does not guarantee it is safe, as the National Cancer Institute warns out. Herbal supplements can be harmful to a person’s health in some cases.

They give the following examples:

“[S]ome research have revealed that kava kava, a stress and anxiety-relieving plant, may induce liver damage. Furthermore, St. John’s wort, which is used to treat depression, may impair the effectiveness of certain cancer medicines.”

Before taking supplements or vitamins, patients with cancer should consult with their physician.

8. Cancer runs in families

Although certain cancers are passed down through families genetically, they are in the minority: an estimated 3–10% of malignancies are caused by mutations inherited from parents.

Because cancer is more prone to occur as individuals age and because people today live longer lives, it is not commonplace for people to have cancer-stricken relatives. This could explain why the legend endures.

The majority of cancer cases are caused by the accumulation of mutations in genes over time.

According to the American Cancer Society:

“Some cancers run in families, but the majority of malignancies aren’t obviously connected to the genes we acquire from our parents.” Most cancers are caused by gene alterations that begin in a single cell and spread throughout a person’s life.”

9. Cancer always comes back

Dr. Collin Vu, a medical oncologist and hematologist at Orange Coast Medical Center’s MemorialCare Cancer Institute in Fountain Valley, California, said:

“Fortunately for us all, this assertion is a myth and is completely false. Current cancer therapies are progressing to the point that cancer cures — that is, treatments that kill cancer totally — are becoming more common.”

He does, however, point out that the topic is tricky because “various cancer kinds have substantially varying ability to be treated, and different cancer types also have different time frames for when a disease may normally reoccur.” [This] makes it difficult for patients to determine whether they are actually “cured” or still face a significant chance of cancer recurrence.”

Dr. Vu is optimistic about the future of cancer treatment, telling MNT:

“With current scientific development in better cancer therapies and increased public awareness of cancer risks and diagnosis, the idea that ‘cancer always comes back’ may become even more of a myth in the future.”

10. There is no cure for cancer

This is also a myth, thankfully. As medical science learns more about the pathways that cause cancer, treatments become increasingly effective.

Some diseases, such as testicular and thyroid cancer, have a 60 percent cure rate, according to Dr. Vu. The cure rate, according to Dr. Vu, is “the percentage of cancer patients who have the same life expectancy as the general population.”

This is also a myth, thankfully. As medical science learns more about the pathways that cause cancer, treatments become increasingly effective.

Some diseases, such as testicular and thyroid cancer, have a 60 percent cure rate, according to Dr. Vu. The cure rate, according to Dr. Vu, is “the percentage of cancer patients who have the same life expectancy as the general population.”

Patients who have been diagnosed with cancer, even at an advanced stage, must not lose hope: there are numerous effective, novel medicines available, as well as improved surgical techniques. For example, up to 40% of patients with stage 4 melanoma can be cured with current immunotherapy, and 50% of patients with stage 4 colon cancer metastatic to the liver can be cured with a combination of chemotherapy and surgery.

In short, science is making considerable progress in the fight against cancer, despite the fact that the war is still ongoing.


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