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Cancer Myths vs. Cancer Facts

Cancer isn’t contagious but bad information can be. We expose eleven of the most common myths about cancer.


Myth: Cancer is contagious

Not true. You can't catch cancer from someone who has it. This is an especially vicious myth because it could keep a friend or relative from spending time with a cancer patient right when they need support most. Not only is it perfectly safe to touch and spend all the time you want around someone with cancer...your company will never be more valuable.

Myth: Exposing a tumor to air during surgery causes it to spread

A dangerous misconception. Surgery is one of the primary weapons against cancer. It can't cause the cancer to spread. If a tumor is caught in an early stage, surgery may completely cure the cancer. Though it's possible that the surgeon may discover the cancer has spread more than previously thought, the surgery can't cause the cancer to spread or cause it to start. Delaying treatment because of this myth can get you killed.

Myth: There is a cure for cancer, but the drug companies and medical establishment are keeping it secret to make money treating cancer

File this one with the other conspiracy myths. With the free flow of information in today's world and within science, word of anything like this would be impossible to suppress - it would spread like wildfire. And consider this: Scientists are goal-driven people - they go into their field to solve problems. What researcher could ever resist the possibility of being known as the person who discovered a cure for cancer? Research is pushing back the frontiers of knowledge in cancer at an increasing rate, and new treatments are coming as fast as it can be established that they are effective and safe.

Myth: You can catch brain cancer from electronic devices like a cell phone

There have been numerous studies conducted on the subject, and the current scientific consensus is that there is no relationship between use of electronic devices and brain cancer. Incidentally, the same goes for power lines around your house. There has never been any study that established a link between power lines and cancer.

Myth: Prostate cancer treatment is worse than the disease

Another dangerous myth. Caught early, prostate cancer is among the most curable of all cancers. If it's not caught and treated early, it's deadly. Today's treatments for prostate cancer such as brachytherapy and IMRT can more accurately target cancerous tissue while minimizing side effects. While it's true that radiation, chemotherapy or surgery can cause discomforting side effects, those effects fade, and the treatment can save your life.

Myth: If you're old, there's no reason to treat cancer, because it won't do any good

Don't you believe it. You're never too old to be treated for any illness. Older patients tend to have a few more medical conditions that may complicate treatment a little, but doctors are trained for that. Plenty of elderly patients are cured of cancer and enjoy years or decades of additional life. Age should never stop anyone from seeking treatment for symptoms of any illness as soon as possible.

Myth: Underwire bras cause breast cancer

Simply untrue. A book published several years ago called Dressed to Kill tried to establish a link between bras and the higher rate of breast cancer in North America as opposed to less industrialized regions, without taking any other factors into consideration such as environment, diet, lifestyle or genetics. The book's suggestion that underwire bras can constrict lymph nodes and cause cancer was based on conjecture and had no scientific basis. It was completely inaccurate.

Myth: Antiperspirants cause cancer

Totally false. This myth claims that antiperspirants trap toxins inside the body, which are deposited in the lymph nodes below the arms, leading to cell mutations and cancer. This myth conveniently ignores the fact that there are no toxins to purge: sweat is made up of 99.9% water, sodium, potassium and magnesium. No major cancer research organization has ever found any substantial evidence that antiperspirants can cause cancer.

Myth: It's better not to know that you have cancer

The truth is exactly the opposite. Ignoring a serious problem like cancer will not make it go away. But early detection of almost all cancers vastly increases the chances of a successful treatment, and that's a fact.

Myth: Having a family history of breast cancer means you will get breast cancer

The fact is that while women with a family history of breast cancer are at higher risk, most women who get the disease have no family history. If a close female relative had breast cancer, the safe thing to do is have a first mammogram five years before the age of their diagnosis. If you have no family history of breast cancer, the American Cancer Society recommends that you get a first (baseline) mammogram between the ages of 35 and 40. Between age 40 and 49, you should have a mammogram every two years, then once a year after age 50.


For more information about cancer treatment options or to schedule an appointment, call the Phoebe Cancer Center at 1-800-490-0684.