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5 Myths About Cancer That Are Downright Dangerous

02/12/2016 12:35 PM IST | Updated 05/12/2016 9:15 AM IST
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Cancer is one of the leading causes of death all over the world. Yet, it is surprising that not everyone is fully aware of the illness and what the real facts of the disease are. In the face of ignorance, numerous myths concerning cancer have sprung up. Here are some that are downright dangerous.

Cancer in older people cannot be treated

There is no particular age for being diagnosed with cancer. Even babies can get cancer and people as old at 100 can also get it. While your risk of getting cancer increases as you grow older, people of any age can be diagnosed with it. Furthermore, there is no designated age for treating cancer as well. There is a running belief that after a certain age, cancer cannot be treated. But there have been numerous cases of successful treatment of cancer even in 90-year-old patients.

A biopsy worsens the problem

If cancer has been detected early, the best way forward is surgery. It is believed among many that a biopsy could lead to worsening of the problem. Fact is, the chances of this happening are extremely low. A great amount of care is taken by surgeons while conducting biopsies, which is a process by which cells from the body are removed and tested for cancer. It is through a biopsy that the doctor can determine the type of cancer, its subtype, genomic make up, mutations etc and thereby plan your personalised therapy (as opposed to a generic therapy). This is critical and crucial in planning of treatment in the modern era.

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy can kill you

It is believed that chemotherapy is a painful and uncomfortable experience. While the therapy in itself does not cause pain, it is the side-effects of the treatment that might lead to some discomfort. Both chemotherapy and radiotherapy are directed towards killing the tumour cells while hopefully sparing the healthy tissue around the tumour. Due to their weak nature, cancer cells are more vulnerable to be killed by radiotherapy as the cells do not have the ability to repair the damage, unlike healthy cells. While radiotherapy is directed at only the tumour cells, there are chances that healthy cells get affected as well, leading to side effects such as pain, fever, etc. There are some who advocate painless treatment which does not yield any side-effects. But it should be remembered that such treatment may not be able to kill the tumour cells as well and thus, would not be helpful treatment at all. In order to manage the pain caused by the side-effects of such cancer treatment, palliative or supportive therapies exist to minimise the side-effects, and help patients withstand their treatment regimen.

Cancer will always lead to death

Not all cancers are fatal. The probability of the disease becoming fatal depends on the type of cancer as well as how advanced it is. Cancer, which is at an early stage cannot kill you. In fact, 80% to 90% of cancers that are detected at an early stage can be cured.

Cancer is infectious

Cancer of any type is not infectious. There has been absolutely no evidence to support the myth that coming into close contact with someone who has cancer, by breathing the same air, or touching them etc, can lead to cancer. Yes, certain types of cancer, such as kidney cancer or skin cancer, can spread from one person to another during organ transplants and pregnancy, but this is not common. Usually, when cancer cells from another body enter a healthy body, the immune system of the healthy body ensures that these cells are found and destroyed. Hence, cancer is absolutely a non-infectious disorder.

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