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Survey: Many believe cancer myths

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- More than 40 percent of Americans surveyed in a study falsely believed surgery can allow cancer cells to spread through the body, researchers said Monday. And up to a quarter believed there is a drug industry plot to cover up a cure for cancer.

The survey, published in the journal Cancer, may mean patients with cancer may fail to get treatment or may fail to stick with it, the researchers said.

The telephone survey of 957 adults was designed to represent the general U.S. population, said the researchers, led by Dr. Ted Gansler of the American Cancer Society.

"The most prevalent misconception, 'Treating cancer with surgery can cause it to spread throughout the body,' was endorsed as true by 41 percent of the respondents," the researchers wrote in their report.

"The second most prevalent misconception, 'The medical industry is withholding a cure for cancer from the public in order to increase profits,' was identified as true by 27 percent."

But most people -- 68 percent -- correctly rejected the idea that pain medications are ineffective against cancer pain and 89 percent knew it takes more than a positive attitude to treat cancer.

Eighty-seven percent knew there were effective treatments for cancer. More than 60 percent of cancer patients are still alive 5 years later.

The results show that the American public is significantly ill-informed about cancer, and that most people overestimate how much they know about the disease, the researchers said.

Only 25 percent of those surveyed correctly identified all five misconceptions as false.

The survey fits in with others recently done about what people know about cancer.

People who were 65 or older, of non-white race and those who admitted they knew little about cancer were more likely to get the answers wrong, the researchers said.

The findings may help explain why some groups are more likely to die of cancer than others, the researchers said. People who get early screening and prompt treatment for their cancer are more likely to survive.

Copyright 2005 Reuters. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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http://www.cnn.com/2005/HEALTH/conditio ... index.html

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