The Most Common Cancer Myths, Misconceptions, and Facts

The Most Common Cancer Myths, Misconceptions, and Facts



There are many cancer myths and misconceptions which cause stress for patients and prevent them from getting diagnosed and treated on time. We have debunked some common cancer myths, so you can be armed with the right information.

Cancer Is Contagious

Cancer is not contagious. In some people, cancers are caused by bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms, which may spread from person to person, but the cancers they cause will not spread. For example, some human papillomavirus (HPV) and certain bacteria (e.g., Helicobacter pylori) are known to cause cancer.

Cancer can be contagious only if a person receives an organ or tissue from a donor who had cancer. However, the risk is very low, as only two cases of cancer are reported per 10,000 organ transplants. Also, doctors avoid using organs of cancer patients.

Cancer Cannot Be Cured At All

Modern medicine has improved cancer treatment options. The possibility of dying from cancer in the US has dropped since the 1990s. The 5-year survival rate of:

  • Prostate cancer, breast cancer, and thyroid cancer are 90% or more.
  • All cancers together are 67%.

Earlier diagnosis and detection help cure cancer and improve the survival rate. Diagnosis time can be reduced by shortening waiting times for cancer. These include the time required to visit a specialist doctor after the general physician has given an urgent referral or the time needed for all the diagnostic tests. Public health interventions like screening drives and cancer education campaigns can raise awareness about the disease and help with early diagnosis.

The duration that a specific cancer patient lives and whether the patient will die from the disease is dependent on several factors. These include the patient’s overall health, if the growth rate of the cancer is slow or fast, to what extent his or her cancer has spread in the body, and the available treatment options for that type of cancer.

If Your Family Has a History of Cancer, You Will Develop It Too

A family history of cancer increases your risk for the condition, but it does not mean that you will surely get the disease. Cancer is caused by genetic mutations, which can be caused by lifestyle and environmental factors besides inherited genes. It is estimated that 4 out of 10 cancers can be prevented by following simple lifestyle changes such as maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding tobacco products, eating healthy, limiting alcoholic beverages, exercising regularly, and avoiding too much sun exposure.

Your doctor may also recommend medication or surgery if you have inherited cancer-causing genes. If your family has an inherited cancer-causing mutation, several family members can get the same type of cancer which are known as hereditary cancers. Such cancers include hereditary breast, ovarian, prostate, colon, melanoma cancers, and several others.

Eating Sugar Causes Cancer to Grow

According to research, cancer cells consume more sugar than normal cells, but there is no evidence that eating sugar will cause cancer to grow or not eating sugar will shrink your cancer. However, eating a high-sugar diet may lead to weight gain, which may increase your risk for developing pancreatic cancer, colorectal cancer, and postmenopausal breast cancer.

Chemotherapy Always Has Bad Side Effects

Chemotherapy once produced serious side effects but now has reduced the risk of such consequences due to advancements in medicine. Side effects such as hair loss, tissue damage, and nausea and vomiting are rarer and are manageable with supportive and palliative care. Additionally, contrary to what many people believe, chemotherapy does not cause pain. However, if you are undergoing any alternative therapy, e.g., taking herbal remedies, discuss them with your doctor to ensure they do not interfere with your chemo.

A Lump in Your Breast Typically Indicates Breast Cancer

Finding a lump in your breast does not mean that you have breast cancer, as it may occur during the menstrual cycle. The National Breast Cancer Foundation reveals that only a small percentage of breast lumps develop into cancer. However, schedule an appointment with your doctor if you notice a persistent lump or changes in your breast.

Cancer Will Always Come Back

The probability of cancer recurrence is less even in earlier stages (1 and 2) and late stages. Cancer can reoccur only if a cancer cell or a portion of it remains in the body after treatment. However, if a patient's cancer has a chance of recurring, it will usually do so in the first two years after treatment. The chances of the cancer relapsing will decrease substantially after five years of treatment.

Hair Dye Use Increases the Risk of Cancer

There is no convincing evidence that using hair dye increases cancer risk. However, some studies suggest that barbers and hairdressers with regular exposure to hair dye and other chemical products may have an increased risk of developing bladder cancer.

We hope this article has helped to debunk some common myths about cancer. If you have any further questions about cancer care, diagnosis, and treatment, contact Chesapeake Oncology Hematology Associates today. We are committed to providing you the best possible care.



COHA is a leading group of oncologists that offer oncology services within Anne Arundel County, Howard County, and Queen Anne’s County, Maryland. We remain committed to bringing the best oncology and hematology services to the residents of this area. Our knowledge, skills, and experience will guide you toward the best treatment options for your health and lifestyle. We offer today’s most effective therapies, expertly and compassionately delivered in our infusion and medical centers.

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