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Debunking 4 Common Cancer Myths

January 23, 2019

Family portrait of a grandmother, her daughter and grandson smilingLearning of a cancer diagnosis can be devastating.  It’s natural to think of the worst possible outcome.  Afterall, we often associate cancer with chemotherapy, radiation, weakness, illness, and even death. However, it would be a mistake to jump to the worst possible conclusions.  Although the more serious forms of cancer may be the ones that get all the attention, there are several types of cancer for which survival rates are quite favorable and treatment much less invasive.  With that in mind, here are four common cancer myths that are important to keep in mind:

Myth 1: Cancer is Almost Always Fatal

Most forms of cancer, particularly those caught in earlier stages, have high rates of treatment success.  Breast, prostate, colon, and skin cancer are all highly curable when detected early enough.  Even some form of advanced cancers such as lymphoma are often still successfully treated despite their advanced stage. 

Myth 2: Cancer is Painful

While it is true that some forms of cancer and the treatments that accompany them can lead to patient pain and discomfort, this is not always the case.  Some cancer patients never experience pain as a symptom at all.  For those who do, pain management will be a priority for the treating physician.

Myth 3: Cancer Requires Immediate Treatment

It’s logical to assume that it is best to treat cancer immediately and intensely, but this isn’t always the case.  Some forms of cancer are very slow growing and pose no immediate threat, making it preferable for both patient health and comfort for physicians to take a “watchful waiting” approach.  Using this approach, the disease is carefully monitored for progression and any need for intervention.  In other cases, if a very advanced cancer carries a poor prognosis or if the patient is already in poor health, treatment may only serve to add to their discomfort.

Myth 4: Cancer Will Make You Lose Your Hair

Baldness and hair loss are among the most typical images associated with cancer.  Yet, cancer will not make you lose your hair.  Rather, some forms of cancer treatment such as chemotherapy and radiation may result in hair loss, and even some forms of those won’t affect your locks.  Additionally, there are other forms of cancer treatment with which there is no risk of hair loss.  Whether or not this is a side effect that a patient will endure depends completely on the medications and therapies they receive.

A cancer diagnosis can be scary and confusing, but it’s important to keep the facts in mind.  The points that you find yourself stressing over may not even be applicable.  Instead, find an oncologist you can trust and have an open and honest discussion about your diagnosis and what you can expect in the coming months.  You may pleasantly surprised to learn that many of your fears in this uncertain situation don’t need to be fears at all. 

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