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Cancer: Common Myths and Misconceptions

Though cancer is by no means a rare disease, there are many myths and misconceptions about it, its diagnosis, and its treatment. This can lead to unnecessary fear or worry about your, or a loved one’s, ailment. Here, this post will be explaining the truth behind some of the common doubts about cancer.


1) Eating sugar makes cancer grow faster

Research to date shows no definitive correlation between sugar consumption and cancer growth. While certain cancer cells do tend to absorb glucose more than normal cells, cutting out sugar will not slow down cancer growth. This misconception might stem from how PET scans work (by using glucose to detect cancerous cells), or from excessive sugar consumption as a risk factor for some cancers. Excessive sugar consumption may lead to an unhealthy or sedentary lifestyle, a risk factor for esophageal and kidney cancer, amongst others, but eating sugar does not make cancer grow faster.


2) Cancer is contagious

Interacting with cancer patients does not increase your chances of developing cancer. Cancerous cells and tumours cannot be spread from a cancer patient to others, so staying with and supporting friends and family with cancer does not put you at risk. This misconception might stem from certain contagious viruses. HPV, the human papillomavirus, is a leading cause of cervical cancer, and can be transmitted through bodily fluids, and sexual intercourse. Similarly, Hepatitis B and C, which can be transmitted through injections, can increase risk of kidney cancer. If you know someone with a contagious virus, it may be good to keep your distance, but cancer itself is not contagious.


3) All tumours are cancerous

You may find lumps, especially in the testicles and breasts, but not all of them are cancer. In fact, nearly 9 out 10 breast lumps are non-cancerous. While it may be important to remove certain benign tumours that could develop into cancer, it is not true that all of them are malignant or even likely to be malignant. Some of them may even be other conditions, such as cysts, and not relevant to cancer. This misconception might stem from the fact that benign tumours may present their own symptoms and complications. However, they are unlikely to metastasize (spread to elsewhere in the body). It is good to monitor your body for abnormal growths and any kind of lumps, but it is not necessary that they will be cancerous or harmful in any other way.


4) Cancer doesn’t recur after surgery

Surgery may remove a cancerous tumour entirely from the body, especially for early stages of cancer localised in one area. However, this does not mean the cancer will not recur. This misconception might stem from the fact that early-diagnosed and early-treated cancers are far less likely to recur than later stage or later diagnosed cancers. It does not eliminate the possibility of recursion, though, which is why it’s important that you and your healthcare team continue to monitor for symptoms even after treatment.


5) Symptoms are the only way to detect cancer

A lot of early-stage cancers are asymptomatic, or show minimal symptoms. Regular screenings are important, especially if you are at a higher risk for certain cancers. Common risk factors for many cancers include age and race. Talk to your GP about potentially starting scheduled screenings for cancer if necessary. This misconception might stem from the fact that early-stage cancers are less commonly diagnosed than later stage cancers, which can exhibit prominent symptoms. Only monitoring symptoms is not an ideal way of diagnosing early cancers, which is why you should look into screening. The earlier the cancer is diagnosed, the likelier it is that it will be easier to treat.


6) Cancer treatments are dangerous

Years of research has gone into the surgery and therapy procedures we use today, and the success rate of treatment is only increasing. For early-stage cancers, surgery is one of the most successful methods of treatment, and chemo- and radiotherapy are both proven to be effective in fighting cancerous cells. This misconception might stem from the fact that certain treatments can have side effects, but this does not mean they are dangerous or, overall, harmful. Chemotherapy can affect other cells in your body, but it is unlikely to cause health damage. Similarly, radiotherapy is used by trained professionals who are dedicated to helping you recover. Additionally, your healthcare team will provide a personalised treatment plan catered specifically to your health, age, and fitness. Some surgeries can cause excessive bleeding, but your surgeons and doctors will provide supplemental treatments and medicines to help you recover and to alleviate any pain. While treatments can be difficult, they are not necessarily dangerous to your health.


7) Biopsies and surgeries cause cancer to spread

Cancer surgeons are trained in their practice, and there is no proven correlation between surgery and the spread of cancer. In fact, surgery on tumours can effectively prevent them from spreading, or reduce their spread. Biopsies are a diagnostic method where the doctor removes cells from your body and inspects them, and again, there is no scientific proof that this can affect the spread of cancer. This misconception may stem from the notion that cancer cells are contagious, and using surgical tools can spread them from one place to another. This is untrue, though, and surgery is unlikely to change the metastasization of the cancer.


There are many misconceptions about cancer, but it’s important to remember that not everything you read or hear is true. Rely on information provided by medical or scientific sources, and trusted websites and news sources. Read more, and share only this reliable information with others to educate them too. Above all, talk to your doctor and healthcare team about any questions or confusion you may have in terms of diagnosis or treatment. You can find more information about cancers, treatments, and doctors on

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