Cancer has become a matter of concern in the whole world. Many people suffer from this disease everywhere. This disease has now become a matter of concern for everybody. The matter has become more complex because of different myths about cancer which have no logic behind them. People get unnecessarily tensed from these misconceptions about cancer and this affects their health. An oncologist must be consulted for clearing any misconception about cancer. The following are some myths about cancer and the actual facts regarding them:
1. Cancer is an automatic death sentence
Many patients are surviving the disease than before, thanks to advancements in cancer treatments and increased awareness and preventive efforts. In some cancers, such as breast cancer, prostate cancer and thyroid cancer, the five-year survival rates exceed 90 percent. For all cancers combined, the five-year survival rate is currently about 66 percent. However, many factors including whether the cancer is slow or fast growing, how much cancer has spread in the body, availability of effective treatments, the person’s overall health and many more are taken into consideration in deciding how long an individual cancer patient will live and whether he or she will die from the disease.
2. Cancer is a man-made, modern disease
There is an idea in some people that cancer is a man-made, modern disease. As any oncologist will tell you, this is not true. As long as humans existed, cancer was there. Egyptian and Greek physicians have described cancer thousands of years ago. In a 3000-year-old skeleton, tell-tale signs of cancer have been found by researchers. Even in dinosaur bones, it has been discovered. Age is the biggest risk factor for cancer. However, it is true that lifestyle, diet and other things like air pollution have a huge impact on cancer risk. But it is not entirely a man-made, modern disease. Cancer has plenty of natural causes. Viruses and bacteria are the cause of one in six worldwide cancers.
3. Cancer has a sweet tooth
There is another idea that cancer cells feed on sugar and so it is suggested that from a patient’s diet, sugar should be completely banished. This is not very simple as sugar is a generalized term. A range of molecules which include simple sugars found in plants, glucose and fructose is referred to by it. Glucose is used for energy by all our cells, whether cancerous or not. However, cancer cells have a particularly high demand for glucose as they grow very fast in comparison with other cells. It is also evident that glucose is used by them to produce energy in a different way from healthy cells. But, it does not mean that cancer cells get their food specifically from sugar in cakes, sweets and other sugary foods.
4. Cancer is hereditary
This is not always the case and you can learn the actual fact regarding this from an oncologist. By harmful changes (mutations) in genes, cancer is caused. By harmful mutations that are inherited from a person’s parents, only about 5 to 10 percent of cancers are caused. Multiple family members will often develop the same type of cancer in families with an inherited cancer-causing mutation. “Familial” or “hereditary” cancers are the names given to these cancers. During a person’s lifetime, some mutations occur that happen as a natural result of aging and exposure to tobacco smoke, radiation and other environmental factors. These mutations are the cause of the remaining 90 to 95 percent of cancers. “Non-hereditary” or “spontaneous” cancers are the names given to these cancers.
5. Cancer treatment kills more than it cures
It is a fact that any cancer treatment, be it chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery, is not so simple. The healthy cells also get affected by treatments designed to kill cancer cells. And though it is sad to hear, treatment does not work sometimes. For late-stage cancer that has spread throughout the body, treatment is very difficult. Treatment is not going to be a cure for very advanced cancers though it can provide relief from symptoms and prolong life.
Provided cancer is diagnosed early enough for an operation to be done, surgery is still the most effective cancer treatment. And more people get cured by radiotherapy than cancer drugs. Yet an important part is played by chemotherapy and other cancer drugs in cancer treatment, in some cases to prolong survival and in some cases to help cure the disease.
When cancer is very advanced, it is important that doctors, patients and their families remain realistic and honest about the best options for treatment. Each patient must decide for themselves the balance of quality and quantity of life which is always going to be an issue in cancer treatment.