Author: Patricia Bratianu RN PhD RH-AHG
Working in hospice and being a person who has had cancer in the past, I hear a lot of rumors about cancer. Here are some of the most common misconceptions and the actual facts about those myths.
Myth: I don’t think that I will get breast cancer. It does not run in my family.
Fact: 85% of people with breast cancer do not have a relative with it. While it is true that some breast cancers have a strong genetic component, most diagnoses are made to people who have no family history of it. There are multiple factors which influence breast cancer development, not just genetics. If you have a relative with it, your chances of developing breast cancer are increased. The degree of increased risk has many variables as well.
Myth: If I get cancer, I may as well give up. If you get cancer, you die.
Fact: Two thirds of people diagnosed with cancer live five or more years. Improved detection and treatment options are helping people live long, healthy lives after treatment for many kinds of cancer. Finding cancer early makes dramatic differences in survival rates.
Myth: The treatment for cancer is worse than the disease.
Fact: Some treatments for cancer are very difficult. However; advances in treatment and palliative (supportive) care have made therapies more precise with fewer side effects and improved success rates. Treatment and tolerance is different for each person, even if they have the same diagnosis.
Myth: The leading cause of death in women due to cancer is from breast cancer.
Fact: The most frequent kind of cancer causing women to die is lung cancer. While not everyone afflicted with lung cancer has a smoking history, the vast majority of people with lung cancer are or were smokers. Not smoking and quitting smoking are two of the most important ways to prevent cancer.
Myth: I just had my annual physical exam. They must have done a blood test to make sure that I don’t have cancer.
Fact: There is no one test to check for cancer. Blood tests for cancer are most frequently used to check for recurrence of cancer or effectiveness of treatment. Cancer is not just one disease. It is unlikely that a blood test to routinely detect most cancers will be developed.
Myth: There is nothing I can do. If I am going to get cancer, I will get cancer. You have to die of something.
Fact: Sadly, this is one of the most common myths that I hear. There is much that can be done to reduce cancer risks. Obesity, tobacco use and alcohol consumption are all controllable risk factors which cause the development of most cancers. Other controllable risk factors are stress and reduction of inflammation within the body. Protect yourself from the sun. Eat foods that have cancer fighting phytochemicals. Consider using supplements rich in compounds that are proven to retard the development and kill cancer cells. Get health exams as recommended. Be active in community efforts to curb pollution and toxins. The more educated you become about cancer, the more that you will realize the power that you possess to prevent it from developing or returning.