Mayo Clinic debunks myths cancer myths

Believing cancer myths can be dangerous to your health, because they could prevent you from having the tests and treatments needed to detect and treat cancer. The April issue of Mayo Clinic Women’s Health Source sets the record straight:

Myth: Exposing a tumor to air during surgery causes cancer to spread. Not true, though one survey showed that 40 percent of people with lung cancer believed this myth. During surgery, your doctor may find that your cancer is more widespread than previously thought. And you may feel worse right after surgery, leading you to believe that the operation caused your cancer to worsen. But exposure to air isn’t responsible.

Myth: Cancer is contagious. It’s OK to touch someone who has cancer. You won’t catch it. Two common cancers, cervical and liver, often are caused by viruses, but these viruses aren’t transmitted through casual contact. The virus that causes cervical cancer is almost always sexually transmitted. And the virus that causes liver cancer is usually transmitted through sexual intercourse or infected needles.

Myth: Drug companies and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are blocking new cancer treatments. There are strong incentives to bring new medications to market as quickly as possible. But it takes time. The studies needed for FDA approval can take years to complete.

Myth: Regular checkups and medical technology can detect all cancer early. Recommended cancer screenings could lead to an impressive reduction in deaths from several cancers, such as cervical, breast and colon. But cancer is complicated and can grow anywhere in the body. No test, technology or exam can detect all types in an early stage.

Myth: Positive attitude improves cancer survival. While a positive attitude can help your quality of life during treatment, attitude alone won’t cure cancer. And believing this myth may leave you feeling guilty or at fault if the cancer returns or progresses. Researchers haven’t found a consistent association between how people choose to cope with cancer and outcomes.

Mayo Clinic Women’s HealthSource is published monthly to help women enjoy healthier, more productive lives. Revenue from subscriptions is used to support medical research at Mayo Clinic. To subscribe, please call 800-876-8633, extension 9PK1.

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