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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Myths in Cancer


The Label Cancer has an ominous ring to it and unlike many other illness that affects humans it creates alarm and anxiety as there is a stigma associated with this disease as an incurable affliction leading to the end of the road.

To a large extent the information cascade of the present times has changed this but at same time a lot of myths and false news hovers around cancer.

The Internet is a double edged sword in the sense it provides unlimited information on anything and  is just a click away but at the same time it depends on the right way to access that information otherwise one is flooded with misinformation,

Cancer is one ailment that has been scourged by such false information.

One of the greatest setbacks to cancer management is these myths.

Way back in 400 BC Hippocrates the father of medicine said that science and opinion are two different things, while science begets knowledge opinion begets ignorance on several occasions

Cancer is abnormal multiplication of tissue cells and spread of these abnormal cells into other parts by blood stream, lymphatic circulation or by direct spread

Each tissue will have its own type of cancer and to call cancer as a single disease is as if to call the Alps a single hill.

So it is with the treatment of cancer, it is unique and different to different types and to different patients.

So many factors like the stage, the aggressiveness ,the condition of the patient ,his other diseases , the center where he has his treatment ,his compliance ,all these factors have a part to play in the outcome of cancer treatment .

So no cancer patient on treatment need to be anxious in comparing themselves to other patients as even in the same type of cancer it could be different in different patients,

This anxiety follows natural discussions that happens between patients and families in cancer hospital waiting rooms ,while this is good in several respects as to get a patients perspective and families outlook to the  treatment undergone and to get tips on food and other issues ,one has to be vigilant of not trying to substitute the experiences  of the other patient for oneself ,because they could be totally different this is where the counselling of health professionals in the center would help the patient to clarify the truth


Another very common myth is on diet and supplements

This is one of the most common topics that is addressed when patients and their families meet

Man by nature has a tendency to give advices based on his experiences but medicine being an actual science is not always based on subjective descriptions or advices

At times the advice is given by people who are not related or by visitors or by a neighbor who may his or her own motives or reasons for telling them

Most advices are on diet or on what not to use in diet

There are circulating myths online and offline about food fads for cancer patients those good and those harmful for them

Generally cancer patients have Dysguesia or altered tastes or early satiation or anorexia due to their disease or as adverse effects of their treatments, hence the food consumed would definitely be lesser than earlier and loss of weight and lassitude are very common for cancer patients

Dietary fads are a disaster for such patients

 In most myths most food are banned

Like cancer patients are asked not to take sugar, the explanation being sugar would feed the cancer cells and hence it would grow,

All cells need sugar or glucose for their energy and all food constituents are transformed into glucose or energy, in no way does sugar have any special nutritive factor to malignant cells, in fact sugar is a good form of nutrition for a cancer patient!

Milk is another prohibited food citing its mucous nature as one that would cause mucous secretion from tumors which again is a fallacy, in fact milks are wonderful sources of nourishment.


Avoiding red meat is cited often as red meat is said to be cause of several cancers,

This again is not the truth ,red meat like many other co factors if used in long term coupled with other factors like familial tendency or genetic mutants or several other factors that are involved in the slow and long term evolving into a cancer is just one spoke in the wheel and taking red meat alone cannot cause cancer

In cancer patients taking red meat once in while if the patient likes it will only provide him good nutrition, so he or she should not be denied his likes due to fallacies.

Artificial additives are painted as cancer villains most of the additives are taken for enhancement of taste in miniscule quantities and are not responsible for the evil they are blamed upon.

Acidic food to be avoided is another big myth, this is so said as the blood is mildly alkaline PH and acidic food is supposed to topple the balance,

Nothing of the kind as our body has enough in it to balance those mildly acidic or alkaline food and correct its PH by itself and it has nothing to do with cancer.

Supplements are mostly not needed as some are potentially harmful as most supplements do not label their ingredients and are conveniently called as herbal or natural food products or anti-oxidants with tall claims of curing cancer, they are generally costly and world over account for huge business by exploiting a cancer patients who would fall to their advertising charms and spend money which would have been better used for better natural foodstuffs like fruits.

At times some ingredients in supplements may cause kidney or liver damage and this will prevent cancer treatment by using conventional accepted forms of treatment as patient may go in for renal or hepatic failure

We should advice any patient on treatment to inform their physician or health professionals of any supplements planned to be taken by them whatever be the advice or claims the said supplement has

As Andrew Schopenhauer mentioned in 7 th century facts are always not very attractive

Initially they may be ridiculed ,secondly may be violently opposed ,and later only are they accepted whereas false claims are usually accepted easier because they offer escape routes from what the patient fears like undergoing chemotherapy etc but in the long run it is to the detriment of the patient

There is no alternative medicine.

There is only scientifically proven, evidence-based medicine supported by solid data or unproven medicine, for which scientific evidence is lacking

Under the rules of science, people who make the claims bear the burden of proof.

Testimonials or advertisements can never equal scientific evidences or studies

Promoters of quackery wear the cloak of science and are great marketing professionals

Another oft reported accusation is that the scientific community keeps facts away from the patient as a great ploy of the medical and pharmaceutical community, the very fact that the five year survival has shot up from 10 % in the sixties to more than 50 % today suggests this can’t be so !

So the cancer patient or his family should be open to suggestions and discussions with other families or the society itself but the decisions they take for the patient should always be after consultation with their health professional with whom they should discuss any such advises

 They should be beyond myths and should also not spread such myths to other patients.


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