Myths About Cancer

Some Common Myths about Cancer

Some notions about cancer – its origin, spread and treatment are deeply ingrained in people’s mind. However, many of them do not have a scientific basis. Believing such unproven information may lead to delay in cancer detection and treatment or even wrong treatment. These are some of the common myths about cancer.

Is cancer always hereditary?

Almost 90-95% of cancers are not hereditary and cannot be passed on from one generation to the other. Some cancers are associated with certain genetic mutations that can be passed on to the offspring and need special screening schedule as well as genetic testing. Other cancers are a result of genetic mutations acquired during one’s life and are not passed on to the next generation.

Is cancer always fatal? Does it mean a death sentence?

With advancements in medical science, the cure rates of most cancers have improved over last few decades and most of the cancers, if detected early, have a very high cure rate of more than 90 percent.

It is important to note, however, that there are many other factors that determine cure rate and it may vary from individual to individual even for the same type and stage of cancer. How long an individual diagnosed with cancer will live and whether he or she will die from the disease depends on several factors i.e. rate of growth of cancer, stage of cancer (extent of spread in the body), whether effective treatments are available for that cancer, the person’s general health condition etc.

Will my cancer spread after biopsy / surgery?

It is a very common misconception that touching the cancer with knife or needle makes it spread like wild-fire. Biopsy (whether by needle or open) is needed for diagnosis of most cancers and does not cause spread of cancer. Similarly, complete surgical removal of cancer does not affect the outcome adversely. Standard procedures and precautions are followed during surgery to avoid spread of cancer. There are a few cancers where we do not do biopsy and straightaway perform surgery to remove them as they are surrounded by a capsule and it is not advisable to breach the capsule e.g. Kidney, Testis, Early stage ovarian cancer.

Does eating sugar promote cancer growth?

Cancer cells do consume more sugar than our normal body cells, but studies have not shown that eating sugar will make your cancer grow faster or, conversely, that cancer will get smaller / cured if we avoid sugar completely. However, a high-sugar / fat diet may cause excess weight gain, and obesity is a risk factor for development of several cancers like breast, colon (large intestine) etc.

Is cancer contagious?

Cancer cannot spread from one person to another even if a raw / ulcerated area is touched with bare hands. However, certain infections like hepatitis B and C and human papilloma virus can be transmitted from one person to the other and could be a cause of cancer in the long term. Another situation in which cancer could spread from one person to the other, though the risk is extremely low, could be organ transplant where the donor has been a cancer patient in past.

Do cell phones or high voltage transmission lines cause cancer?

The electromagnetic energy emitted by these devices have not been shown to be a cause of cancer in the studies conducted so far. The energy emitted is a low-frequency radiation which is not known to cause genetic damage. However, it is best to limit the use of mobile phones as much as is possible

How effective are “alternative therapies” for cancer cure ?

There is a lot of interest and publicity around alternative therapies like herbs, cow urine etc for cancer. Unfortunately, none of them are proven scientifically to cure the cancer. Quite often, patients resort to alternative medicine as the only form of therapy thus delaying the most effective treatment and letting the cancer grow beyond the stage of potential cure. In fact, some of these may be harmful if taken together with standard form of therapy and one must inform the treating physician about any supplements or alternative therapy being taken by them.

Do anti-perspirants or deodorants cause breast cancer?

It was believed that Aluminium and parabens in these products may lead to breast cancer. However, a few studies conducted so far have not shown any causal relationship between deodorants or anti-perspirants and breast cancer.