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Myths-Busting Cancer: Facts and Fiction

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If we start talking about cancer in clear, understandable terms, people will be more informed and be able to take on the obstacle better.

Misconceptions about cancer can cause healthy people to have misgivings about their health and unnecessarily stop doing things that they think will harm them when, in fact, these things won’t.

While friends and family can be a great source of support and general information about cancer, they usually are not scientists or oncologists or who can provide the data-driven information needed to make educated decisions about matters such as treatment options. Moreover, some information found through online forums, websites, or discussions with friends and family, can contribute to the perpetuation of many of the misconceptions that still surround cancer.

These myths can be about what might cause the disease, what treatment is like, and even if cancer is contagious.

Most common myths – can you guess what is fact, what is fiction? 

Products such as hair dyes and antiperspirants can cause cancer.

Some reports have suggested that these products contain harmful substances such as aluminum compounds and parabens that can be absorbed through the skin or enter the body through nicks caused by shaving. According to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, no conclusive scientific evidence exists to date that these items increase the risk of developing cancer.

Using the microwave is bad for you – the plastic containers that food comes in release harmful substances into the food, and if too much is ingested, it can produce cancer.

Containers labeled as “Microwave safe” are safe to use in the microwave. Containers that cannot withstand the stress of being warmed up in the microwave may melt, leaching chemicals into the food. To ensure that this doesn’t happen, users should always check that the container is labeled as “microwave safe” label.

Using commercial artificial sweeteners gives you cancer, and eating sugar will make cancer grow faster.

In the 1960s, the FDA banned cyclamate, an artificial sweetener that was allegedly linked to bladder cancer. Other sweeteners such as saccharin and aspartame are not in any way linked to cancer. Sugar can’t influence cancer growth; removing it from a cancer patient’s diet will not slow the diseases growth.

Drinking fluoridated water and eating grilled meat gives people cancer.

A lot of people around the world drink water that contains fluoride, and there is no evidence that supports the connection between drinking flouridated water and developing cancer.  Eating grilled or pan-fried meats can increase a person’s risk of developing cancer because of the production of a chemical called heterocyclicaminesthat develops in grilled or burned meat.  Ifingested in high quantities, heterocyclicamines can cause cancer. The best way to reduce the risk is to avoid eating burnt meat and pre-heating meat by marinating or using a microwave.

Cancer is contagious, and a weakened immune system allows cancer to develop.

No cancer is contagious, and cancer cannot be spread from one person to another. Some viruses transmitted through sexual activity or intravenous needles (such as HPV, Hepatitis C and Hepatitis B) do increase the risk of contracting those particular diseases. However, treatment to support the immune system isn’t an effective treatment for cancer.

Cancer treatments are worse than the disease itself, and patients are forced to be in the hospital during the entire treatment.

Although cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation are aggressive and invasive procedures, healthcare treatment has advanced greatly throughout the years and patients are able to access better care than ever before. Symptoms like nausea, vomiting, hair loss, weight loss and tissue damage are much less common, and shouldn’t be a reason to avoid being treated for the disease.

Cancer patients usually receive their treatment as outpatients. This means that most patients are able to lead a normal life: go to work, take care of their children and live at home throughout their treatment.

How to keep the cancer dialogue alive 

Cancer treatment doesn’t have an age limit, and the disease doesn’t either. Being well informed is the key to be able to reduce the people that die from the disease every year around the world.

For some people, cancer is still a taboo. If we start talking about cancer in clear, understandable terms, patients and their families will be more informed and be able to take on the obstacle better. Always make sure that information is coming from reliable sources.

Cancer is not a death sentence. According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), cancer prevention is an essential component of all cancer control plans because about 40% of all cancer deaths can be avoided. Due to early diagnosis and advanced methods of treatment, a vast majority of patients survive the disease.