Common Myths and Facts About Cancer

Posted On Nov 10, 2022

Dr. Kakoli Lahkar

Consultant - Medical Oncology

Manipal Hospitals-Old airport Road, Bengaluru

Cancer care hospital in Bangalore

Cancer, aptly termed the “Emperor of all maladies”, is a broad term for a group of life-threatening diseases characterized by uncontrolled cell growth and spread. There are approximately 30 trillion cells in our bodies. Together, the cells form tissues and organs. Cancer can develop in any of these organs. The most common types of cancer are breast cancer, lung cancer, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, head and neck cancer, stomach cancer, and ovarian cancer.

Although nearly two out of every three patients who receive current cancer treatments (surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and biological therapy) are cured as per international data, a cancer diagnosis is understandably one of the most traumatic experiences in one’s life.  Not to mention that certain myths related to cancer that circulate via word of mouth or via social media/online platforms only add to the anxiety and fear. This blog is an attempt to dispel some widespread misconceptions about cancer.

Debunking Common Myths About Cancer

  • Myth 1: Eating sugar can cause cancer to grow and spread faster. 

The energy source for every cell in the body is glucose (sugar) and it’s true that cancer cells consume more sugar. But no studies have proved that consuming more sugar can accelerate the growth of cancer cells. Additionally, limiting sugar intake does not kill cancerous cells.

  • Myth 2: Cancer is contagious. Kids should avoid close contact with cancer patients. 

Cancer is not a contagious disease. You cannot “catch” cancer from someone else. Cancer is caused by changes in the DNA of certain cells, which can be hereditary or acquired during a person’s lifetime. However, certain cancer-causing viruses are contagious such as the Human papillomavirus, which causes cervical cancer, a sexually transmitted disease. For more clarity, consult with our cancer specialist in Bangalore.

  • Myth 3: If no one in my family has cancer, then I can never get it.

Well, only 5 to 10 % of cancers are hereditary. The vast majority of cancers are sporadic or random and caused by genetic changes that occur over the course of a person's life and may be related to various lifestyle/environmental factors. 

  • Myth 4: Cancer is a death sentence.

Cancer is infamously considered a fatal disease, however rapid advances in medical technology and newer treatment techniques twinned with early detection via screening have caused a paradigm shift in cancer management. Today, more and more people are surviving cancer and living long, healthy lives. Survival has become a realistic goal.

  • Myth 5: Cancer is always painful.

Cancer is usually painful in advanced stages. Most cancers are painless in early stages and hence termed a “silent killer”. For example, breast cancer presents mostly as a painless lump and only 5% of breast cancer cases report pain as a symptom. Lump anywhere in the body, a sore that doesn’t heal, persistent cough or hoarseness, new onset indigestion, altered bowel habits, any abnormal bleeding, and change in the color or appearance of a mole are some of the presenting complaints that can indicate underlying cancer.

  • Myth 6: Only smoking can cause lung cancer.

Mostly but not necessarily. While smoking tobacco is a major risk factor for developing lung cancer (85% of lung cancer is caused by smoking tobacco), there are many other potential predisposing factors, including exposure to certain chemicals and viruses (asbestos & radon), secondhand smoke, inherited genetic mutations, and lung scarring from prior illness. 

  • Myth 7: Biopsy or surgery can make cancer spread.

A biopsy is the only way to confirm the type of cancer whereas surgical removal is the primary treatment in most cancers. There is no evidence to suggest that doing a biopsy or surgery will make cancer spread, provided it is done by trained oncologists and surgeons at experienced centers.

  • Myth 8: Microwaving food causes cancer

Although microwaving food does not cause cancer, if it is heated in plastic containers that are not designed for microwave use, the plastic may melt and potentially leak chemicals into the food. Always heat food in microwave-safe containers.

  • Myth 9: Cancer always comes back.

Cancer is curable in a vast majority of patients currently, especially if diagnosed in the early stages. While cancer can sometimes relapse after treatment, many people are cured of cancer and do not experience a recurrence. Even in late stages, modern treatment techniques and medications can significantly improve the quality and quantity of life; hence every patient deserves treatment.

To summarize, knowledge is power, and cancer awareness helps one act wisely and get the required medical attention at the earliest. Early diagnosis is the key to cure cancer and the public is encouraged to consult oncologists regarding eligibility for screening and undergo appropriate investigations for any suspicious symptoms. Visit Manipal Hospitals, the best cancer care hospital in Bangalore to have the best treatment.

If you have questions regarding cancer diagnosis and treatment plans, you can book an appointment with a Consultant – Oncology at Manipal Hospital Old Airport Road where you will be guided by an expert Oncologist toward the right treatment option.

Dr. Kakoli Lahkar

Consultant - Medical Oncology

Manipal Hospitals, Old Airport Road, Bangalore