Common Cancer Myths & Misconceptions
With the advancements made in cancer treatment and diagnostics, awareness about the disease and how to prevent, detect, and treat it has also increased. Still, some fallacies about cancer and cancer treatment continue to exist. To clear any confusion, concern, or uncertainty you may have with everything you have heard or read about cancer, and to get informed with the truth, please read the following debunked myths:
Myth: There is no cure for cancer.
Fact: Great progress has been made over the last several years in cancer diagnostics and treatment, and many more cancers are now curable. Concerning cancer, there exists a "cured" status. A patient is declared cured if treatment is successful and the patient is in remission, which is the disappearance of the signs and symptoms of cancer, for a certain amount of time, depending on the type of cancer.
Myth: Everyone with the same kind of cancer gets the same kind of treatment.
Fact: Cancer treatment is tailored to each individual patient. Treatments that patients receive depend on the type, location(s), and stage of the cancer. At Sturdy Memorial Hospital, physicians customize cancer treatment plans based on patients' particular needs and pathophysiologic findings. Treatment options and recommendations are determined using a multidisciplinary approach.
Myth: Sturdy Memorial Hospital does not offer chemotherapy.
Fact: Chemotherapy is an integral part of cancer treatment at Sturdy Memorial Hospital, and is prescribed by experienced medical oncologists on the Hospital's staff. At the Hospital, inpatient and outpatient chemotherapy is provided by nurses with specific chemotherapy experience and certification. Comprehensive chemotherapy services are available in the Hospital's Outpatient Oncology Department, including the newer biologic and targeted therapies.
Myth: The risk of dying from cancer in the United States is growing.
Fact: The American Cancer Society states that the cancer mortality rate has been decreasing since the 1990s, dropping nearly 20 percent. This decline is attributable to more aggressive screening programs and more advanced treatments.
Myth: Having cancer surgery could cause cancer to spread throughout the body.
Fact: This myth may have started many years ago when patients with cancer already had advanced stages of the disease by the time they sought medical care. Doctors who operated to diagnose the illness may have found advanced cancer that could not be treated successfully, so when patients died a short time later, observers claimed surgery caused the spread of cancer cells, ultimately killing the patient.
In reality, surgeons in the treatment of cancer know how to safely take biopsy samples and remove tumors without causing the cancer to spread. For a few types of cancer, extra precautions are taken to prevent any chance of the cancer spreading. For example, surgeons treat patients with testicular cancer by removing the entire testicle containing the cancer, so no cancer cells are dislodged. Doctors who perform surgery for cancer are specialists and are highly trained in the intricacies of cancer and anatomy, and patients should not delay or refuse surgery, which is an effective treatment.
Myth: Radiation causes hair loss.
Fact: Because radiation is a very site-specific treatment, the symptoms and side effects are related to where the beam is aimed. Patients who receive radiation treatment on their scalp area will lose their hair, and those who receive radiation anywhere else will not lose hair on their head, but may lose hair at the site of treatment.
Myth: Only women get breast cancer.
Fact: Breast cancer occurs mainly in women, but men can get it too, because men also have breast tissue and can develop breast cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, less than one percent of all breast cancers occur in men, but this amounts to nearly 2,000 cases of men diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States per year.
Myth: If breast cancer does not run in your family, you will not
Fact: Every woman has some risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer. The American Cancer Society states that women with a family history of breast cancer have an increased risk of breast cancer, but 70 to 80 percent of women who get breast cancer have no known family history of the disease. Age and ethnicity are two of several additional risk factors in breast cancer.
Myth: What someone does as a young adult has little effect on their chance of getting cancer later in life.
Fact: Many of the more common cancers such as lung cancer and skin cancer are associated with behaviors such as smoking and sunbathing/indoor tanning. These behaviors, even if they happen early in life, increase long-term cancer risks.
Myth: Sturdy Memorial Hospital does not offer cancer clinical trials. You need to go to a big cancer center to take part in one.
Fact: Many cancer clinical trials take place at local hospitals, including Sturdy Memorial Hospital. The Hospital's clinical trials program began in 2003 to ensure patient access to the latest cancer treatments close to home, avoiding the need to travel to larger medical or cancer centers for the same high-quality care. To view a list of ongoing clinical trials available at Sturdy Memorial Hospital, click here.