Friday, Mar 24, 2023

World Cancer Day 2021: Myths Around Cancer That Need To Be Busted

World Cancer Day 2021: Myths Around Cancer That Need To Be Busted

The battle against cancer faces the challenge of debunking a deluge of misinformation floating around.

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The fight against the Covid pandemic has somewhat overshadowed the war against cancer. The pandemic has not only delayed screenings and disrupted treatments but also affected the cancer patient’s quality of life.

With up to 40 per cent of cancer cases being attributed to preventable causes, the European Union has recommended to strengthen alcohol control policies and to implement measures including a review of taxation rates and rules on the advertisement to create a “Tobacco-Free Generation.” The commission said it wants to ensure that less than 5 per cent of the population uses tobacco by 2040.

According to the EU, Europe has the highest levels of alcohol consumption in the world while smoking and tobacco use are responsible for 15-20 per cent of all cancers in the bloc, reports Associated Press.

In addition, the commission also wants to reduce air pollution and to tackle cancers caused by infections, with the goal to vaccinate by 2030 at least 90 per cent of girls living in the EU against the papillomaviruses, which cause most cases of cervical cancer.

While plans are fine, the awareness about cancer is necessary. Here are a few myths that we must address and seriously.

Cancer is Contagious:

No cancer is a non-contagious disease. If there is a family member who is suffering from cancer, by touching him or her, sharing common facilities like room, restroom, food and utensils will NOT cause cancer.

However, some cancers are caused by viruses. The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted virus and increases the chances of cervical, anal and oropharyngeal cancers. Hepatitis B and hepatitis C virus are transmittable and increase chances of liver cancer.

Cancer is a family disease:

Only 5-10 per cent of cancer care familiar (passed from one generation to another). Majority of cancers are due to age caused by a mutation that is genetic changes which occur. A single mutation is over a period of years may lead to cancer. Hence old people tend to get cancer often.

Cancer is painful:

Cancer is painless and asymptomatic in its initial stages. It is usually associated with pain in advanced stages. Hence early detection is the cure. Some of the common cancers in India are oral cancers and breast cancers. Oral cancer is present with a painless ulcer in the tongue or cheek with slight bleeding on touch. It is common in tobacco chewers and smokers. Hence only person consuming tobacco in any form and having painless ulcer in the mouth should see a cancer surgeon immediately. Breast cancer usually presents as a painless lump in the breast. In a lady above 36 years. Hence any lump should be immediately shown to a cancer surgeon for proper diagnosis and management.

Cancer means death:

Cancer if diagnoses early and treated at the right place can be controlled. With the latest modalities and researches, undertaken at Jaslok, we have successfully treated lakhs of patients. Using radiation and surgery the lifespan of a patient can be prolonged and one need not fear cancer

Cancer treatment is morbid, mutilating:

With a better understanding of the virology of the various cancers, a multimodality approach is now being done for effective treatment. Surgeries are now more conservative without compromising on principles of oncology. The better technique of radiation has minimised the collateral damage. Microvascular reconstruction has improved the surgeries, cosmetic appearance to adjust normal tissues and reduced side effects. Likewise targeted chemotherapy and many new drugs have reduced the side effects of it. Thus cancer treatment can now be more tolerable

Ignorance is bliss:

This myth needs to be busted. If in doubt about any symptom a person should immediately visit a doctor/cancer specialist. Early detection leads to reduced problems and better cure. Also, regular exercise, eating healthy food, drinking alcohol in the limit, avoiding tobacco completely, reducing obesity and stress lessens chances of cancer. A positive attitude reduces the chances of lifestyle associated with cancers.

Cancer patients cannot work:

Cancer patient if healthy can work. Working is not a hurdle to developing or accelerating cancer


(Dr. Satish Rao is Consultant Surgical Oncology, Jaslok Hospital and Research, Mumbai)