Myths & realities about Cancer

Myth 1 – Cancer is contagious

Cancer is not contagious. You cannot “catch” cancer from another person through contact.

However, there are some cancers which may be caused by viruses and bacteria that can be spread from person-to-person through close contact. An example of this is certain types of the human papillomavirus (HPV), which has been known to cause cervical and various other cancers. Another example would be the hepatitis B and hepatitis C viruses, which impact the liver and increase the risk of developing liver cancer. The H. pylori bacterial infection is also known to cause stomach cancer. Please remember that while these viruses and bacteria can cause some types of cancer and be transmitted from person-to-person, the cancer itself cannot.

Myth 2 – If you have a family history of cancer, you will get it too

Having a family history of cancer can increase your risk of developing the disease but this is not always the case. Approximately 40% of all cancers can be prevented by making lifestyle changes like these:

  • Eating healthily.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Regular exercise.
  • Not smoking.
  • Limiting alcohol.
  • Sun safety.

There are some cancers that run in families or are genetically inherited. Genetic testing for these genes (if you have a strong family history of the disease) is recommended as this can enable you to be proactive and take action, which can help to either reduce the risk of the cancer developing (surgery or medications) or regular screening to catch it early if it does develop.

Myth 3 – Cancer thrives on sugar

There is no conclusive evidence that sugar causes the cancer to grow and spread more quickly. It is true that all cells within the body, healthy and cancer cells, require sugar to grow and function. But there is no proof that eating sugar will speed up cancer growth or cutting it out will stop it. However, this does not mean that a high-sugar diet is not bad for you. A high-sugar diet causes weight gain, obesity and diabetes. These are factors which can increase the risk of developing cancer and other health conditions.

Myth 4 – Cancer treatment is often worse than the disease

Cancer treatment is not pleasant. Most cancer treatments have serious side effects. However, there have been many recent advances within the field of oncology (cancer medicine) and there are now many drugs and treatments available that have much more manageable side effects. Nowadays, you tend to see less symptoms like severe nausea and vomiting or hair loss. You may still get these symptoms, but they will far less severe than they would have been 10 years ago. There are also more medications available which help to control these symptoms, i.e. anti-sickness medications that are used these days are a huge help to control nausea and vomiting. Patient surveys show that more patients report less side effect symptoms and a better quality of life during treatment.

Myth 5 – Pharmaceutical companies, the government and the medical establishment are hiding a cure for cancer

This is simply not true. No one is withholding a cure for cancer. The truth is, there will never be a single cure for cancer. This is because hundreds of different types of cancer exist. All these different types of cancer respond differently to various types of treatment. There is still a lot we do not understand about cancer, which is why there is so much research taking place. Research and clinical trials are essential to better understand this disease and to further develop our cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

Myth 6 – If I’m not offered all the tests, procedures, and treatments available, I am not getting the best care

Every person is different. Every cancer is different. Not every test, treatment or procedure is right for every person. The doctor will present all the ones that are suitable for you and the ones that will most likely increase your chance of recovery, whilst maintaining a good quality of life. You will be fully involved in this discussion and ultimately it is your decision. You can ask as many questions as you would like until you are satisfied with the choices you are making. If you are still in doubt, you have a right to ask for a second opinion and speak to someone else as well.

Myth 7 – If you have cancer, you will die

Cancer is not the death sentence it once was. According to Cancer Research UK, cancer survival rates in the UK have doubled in the last 40 years. Statistics show that 50% of people diagnosed with cancer in England and Wales survive the disease for 10 years or more. These are general statistics of averages across all cancer types. There are variations in survival rates between the different cancer types.

Myth 8 – Cancer is a test from Allah. We should be grateful and have patience

It is narrated by Abu Hurairah (ra) that the Prophet (PBUH) said: “There is no disease that Allah has created, except that He also has created its treatment.” (Sahih al-Bukhari)

It is true that Allah tests us through hardships like disease and we are told to be patient and keep our faith and trust in Allah, but it is also a requirement of the Islamic faith to do all we can to preserve life, and this includes actively seeking treatments and cures for disease, that we have the benefit of.

Safeena - Muslim Cancer Support Network

Safeena - Muslim Cancer Support Network

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