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Debunking cancer myths


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http://www.news8austin.com/content/head ... 24&SecID=2

9/21/2005 4:30 PM

By: Ivanhoe Broadcast News

A study published in the Aug.1, 2005, issue of CANCER shows many Americans are very misinformed about the realities of cancer.

According to background information in the study, the medical management of cancer and cancer-related complications, such as pain, has significantly improved over the last three decades, as have survival rates for leading cancers. But this study shows patients' own cultural beliefs and understanding of cancer may impact the screenings and treatments they undergo.

The survey was based on participants being able to identify five cancer misconceptions as true or false. Forty-one percent of respondents falsely believed surgery can spread cancer and 13 percent said they were unsure whether it was true.

Twenty-seven percent believed a cure for cancer already exists,

but a profit-driven industry is holding it back. Another 14 percent of people were uncertain whether this was true.

Nineteen percent of people believed pain medications were ineffective in treating cancer pain, and another 13 percent did not know.

About 90 percent of people correctly disagreed with the statement that "all you need to beat cancer is a positive attitude," but 11 percent either thought this was true or did not know.

Cancer myths

A recent study shows how little poeple actually know about cancer.

About the same percentage of people correctly disagreed that "cancer is something that cannot be effectively

treated," but 13 percent either agreed or did not know.

M. D. Anderson Cancer Center Orlando oncologists Dr. Gregory Pennock and Dr. Nikita Shah hear their share of cancer myths in their own practices.

Many people believe cancer is typically genetic, whereas in reality, "Most cases of cancer are actually sporadic events that don't have anything to do with your family history or your genetic history," according to Pennock.

With lung cancer, there is the common misconception is that if you already have a diagnosis of lung cancer, there's no harm in continuing to smoke because you've "let the cat out of the bag, essentially," Pennock said.

"There's actually evidence that shows that cigarette smoke or some of the byproducts of cigarette smoke may actually interfere

with the effectiveness of chemotherapy, so it's not a good excuse or a good reason to continue smoking even

though you're on chemotherapy for lung cancer," Pennock said.

Another misconception is that maintaining good nutrition can

somehow also fuel cancer and allow it to grow, whereas the opposite is actually true.

"It's important for patients who are on chemotherapy or radiation to maintain good nutrition because it helps them get through their treatment more effectively and with fewer side effects," Pennock said.

Shah's patients often believe that excess sugar can make cancer grow, but there is no basis for that. She also sometimes hears concerns from her breast cancer patients that underwire bras and coffee can increase one's risk.

"Coffee certainly makes your breasts much more dense. If women have fibrocystic disease, that can get exacerbated by coffee, but not breast cancer," Shah said.

"These results indicate that public and patient education interventions are most urgently needed in cancer centers, medical practices, and other community organizations that serve large numbers of patients with these 'at risk' demographic characteristics," the study authors wrote.

For more information

To learn more contact:

Christine Martinez

Media Relations

M. D. Anderson Cancer Center Orlando

1414 Kuhl Avenue, MP 125

Orlando, FL 32806

(321) 843-1343

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