What You Really Need to Know About Cancer Misconceptions
Cancer misconceptions can make it difficult to understand cancer and to talk about it with your loved ones. We have gathered the top 10 cancer misconceptions and myth-busting facts below!
1. Cancer is a death sentence
Many cancers are survivable! Below are the 5-year survival rates of common cancers:
- Breast: >90%
- Prostate: >96%
- Colorectal: 65%
- Lung, localized: 61%
2. Cancer is contagious
Cancer is NOT a contagious disease. Cancer is a disease in which abnormal cells divide without control and can invade other tissues in the body. Cancerous cells do not spread from person to person. While cancer itself is not contagious, certain contagious infections can increase the risk of specific cancers. For example, HPV can increase the risk of cervical and oropharyngeal cancer.
3. Chemotherapy is the worst thing imaginable
Chemotherapy side effects certainly exist, but supportive medications have vastly improved tolerance to side effects. Also, everyone experiences chemotherapy differently. Cancer patients can talk to their oncologist to determine the best medications, nutrition changes, and more to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy.
4. “X” causes cancer
This is a complicated answer due to misinformation, ongoing scientific studies, and sometimes a lack of scientific studies. We suggest you always do your own research before assuming an item does or does not cause cancer. Some examples of items to research are deodorant, artificial sweeteners, sugar, tobacco, etc.
5. Cancer is always genetic
The majority of cancer cases are random, and the majority of people who develop cancer do not have a family history of cancer. In fact, cancer becomes more common as we age. However, it is important to identify known genetic mutations to effectively screen and lessen the risk of developing cancer.
6. Cancer is always environmental
Environmental risk factors can play a role, but cancer development likely involves multiple causes, including exposures, genetics, and other unknown factors.
7. Pregnant people can not be treated for cancer
While certain diagnostic tests and treatments must be avoided in some trimesters of pregnancy, there are safe and effective ways to treat cancer in a pregnant person without harming the developing fetus.
8. You can’t get lung cancer if you don’t smoke
The vast majority of lung cancer, 80-90%, does occur in people with a history of tobacco smoking, but 10-20% of lung cancers occur in non-smokers. Lung cancer can also occur due to other exposures (second-hand smoke, radon).
9. If air toches cancer, it will spread
While cancers can spread and recur, biopsies or exposure to air do NOT cause a spread or increase the chance of recurrence.
10. Cancer will always recur
Most cancers do not recur, especially when caught early. Regular screenings can help individuals catch cancer at an earlier stage, which improves survival and decreases recurrence. The 5-year survival rate for all cancers combined has increased from 39% in the 1960s to 68% currently.
What is true about cancer?
- Screening is key, and if caught early, cancer is often highly curable.
- Prevention is key.
- Treatment is not a picnic, but it is doable.
- Advances in treatment are being made every year.
- Cancer can change many aspects of life, but it does not have to stop you from having a good life.
- Support exists!
You can also learn more about common cancer misconceptions from the National Cancer Institute: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/myths
How does cancer impact patients and caregivers?
- A recent study found that cancer patients are more than twice as likely to declare bankruptcy as those without a cancer diagnosis.*
- On average, caregivers spend:
- 13 days each month on tasks such as shopping, food preparation, housekeeping, laundry, transportation, and giving medication;
- 6 days per month on feeding, dressing, grooming, walking, bathing, and assistance toileting;
- 13 hours per month researching care services or information on the disease, coordinating physician visits, or managing financial matters.*
Thank you to Dr. Rachel Theriault, Medical Oncologist, and Tracey Willingham, Vice President of Client Programs, for creating this presentation and resource.
Cancer Care Services is here to help so that no one has to cope with cancer alone! We can help you find resources and will determine if you are eligible for our assistance programs, such as gas or medication assistance. We can also connect you with in-house social events. Contact us today at 817-921-0653 or fill out our online form. We look forward to helping you!