Cancer is a scary and scarily common disease. But, despite its prevalence and all of the public health campaigns surrounding this heartbreaking disease, there are still plenty of myths about cancer.
Read on for some of the biggest.
1. Cancer is Always a Death Sentence
Luckily, this is false. Not all cancer is automatically a death sentence. Some are more deadly than others — pancreatic cancer has the highest mortality rate, and prostate the lowest, but, caught early enough, many types of cancer are treatable and even curable.
2. Only Unhealthy People get Cancer
Of course, there are certain factors that can increase your risk of getting cancer—smoking, for instance, or sun exposure, but even the healthiest people can develop cancer. No matter how much kale you eat or how many push-ups you do, you can still get cancer. That’s why early detection is so key.
3. Skin Cancer is Harmless
It’s true that, if caught early enough, skin cancer can be relatively easy to treat. In fact, it has one of the lowest 5-year mortality rates of all types of cancer. But that doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous, or that you shouldn’t worry about sun protection. There are several types of skin cancer, but melanoma is the deadliest and one of the rarest, and most skin cancer-related deaths are due to melanoma. Melanoma, in turn, is usually directly attributed to sun exposure. The bottom line? Wear your sunscreen, because skin cancer CAN be deadly.
4. Lumps are Always Cancer
A lump in your breast, or anywhere else on your body, for that matter, doesn’t automatically mean you have cancer. There are a number of reasons, many of them totally harmless, that you may have a lump on your body. But just because it may not be cancerous, doesn’t mean you should ignore it. If you find a lump, talk to your doctor.
5. No One in my Family Has Had It, So I’m Not at Risk
If cancer doesn’t run in your family, you’re not necessarily risk-free. Similarly, if several members have had cancer, that doesn’t mean you yourself will get it. Cancer can be genetic, but it doesn’t mean it’s ALWAYS genetic.
6. Your Attitude Makes You Get Cancer/Makes it Worse
There has never been any proven research that suggests that people with bad attitudes get cancer more frequently, or get sicker from cancer than people with sunny dispositions. Staying positive will help you in the long term, whether or not you have cancer, in many ways—but suggesting that only grumpy people get cancer is unnecessary and hurtful.
7. Cancer is Merely a Modern Disease
Though it’s true that more people get cancer now than in decades and centuries past, it’s not as easy as saying cancer is merely a modern disease. Here’s the thing — people used to live a lot longer than they do now. In ancient Greece, for instance, the average life expectancy was about 28. Cancer is much more common in older people than it is in younger people. So, it’s not quite accurate to claim that cancer is caused by the chemicals and pollution of the modern age. In general, people are healthier now than they used to be, and, well, when you make it past childhood, as was much less common in the past than it is today, you’re more likely to succumb to cancer.
8. There’s a Miracle Cancer Cure
Unfortunately, there is nothing that is a miracle cure for cancer, and there’s nothing out there that has been proven as much. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.