Submitting Request...


Dealing with cancer: The myths and the facts – Ogden Clinic provided source, Standard-Examiner 6/9/2015

OGDEN - For most people, hearing the word “cancer” can produce fear and anxiety.

But health experts say it shouldn’t.That’s because there are a lot of inaccurate, preconceived notions.

Ogden Clinic physicians, Dr. Sheila Garvey and Dr. Kelly R. Amann, along with Dr. Michael McNamara at the Cleveland Clinic, debunk some of the myths surrounding cancer.

Myth 1 : Cancer is always fatal.

Although there are numerous types of cancers that may become fatal, or when diagnosed later in its stages are fatal, there are a number of cancers that are quite treatable and many people live long vital lives with their cancers in remission, Ammon, a family practice physician said.

“Furthermore there are some forms of cancer such as colon cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer that may be detected early with proper screening, thus improving survivability and outcome,” Amann said.

According to an article written by McNamara, a hematologist and oncologist, most forms of cancer, depending on when they’re caught, are treatable and curable. Some forms of cancer are even curable at advanced stages.

“In addition to curing advanced testicular cancer and lymphomas (Hodgkin’s disease and non-Hodgkin lymphomas), we usually expect to cure most early forms of breast, colon, prostate and skin cancer, including melanoma,” McNamara writes.

Myth 2 : Cancer will make your hair fall out.

Garvey, a general surgeon, said cancer will not make your hair fall out. However, some of the treatments for cancer will make your hair fall out.

In his article, McNamara said there are lots of treatments that cause limited or no hair loss.

“I’d estimate around half of the chemotherapies we use don’t cause hair loss. Many newer, targeted drugs, too, that aren’t traditional won’t cause you to lose your hair during treatment,” he said.

Myth 3 : Cancer is contagious.

All three physicians said cancer is not contagious.

“This is not true,” Amann said. “However, there are some forms of cancer that are caused by infectious agents. One example is cervical cancer caused by the human papilloma virus. We now have a vaccine to prevent the spread of this disease, thus hoping to reduce the incidence of cervical cancer.”

McNamara also said Epstein-Barr virus is linked to nose and throat cancer and certain lymphomas. Cancers from viruses can take decades after exposure to take place.

Myth 4 : Cancer is always painful.

Garvey said cancer usually is not painful until the end stages of disease.

Amann said many cancers are painful, especially those that spread to bone or involve some organs. As some types of cancer spread this may also cause severe pain in many areas. So although it is not true for all cancers, many cancers do cause pain

Myth 5 : Cancer runs in families.

McNamara said having a family member with cancer may modestly increase your risk of developing certain cancers, like breast or colon cancer. But, most people with cancer have no family history of the disease. And most people with a family history of cancer never develop the disease.

Myth 6 : Cancer always has to be treated immediately.

McNamara said sometimes a cancer diagnosis doesn’t mean it has to be treated right away. That’s hard to tell some people and hard for them to understand.

“For some slow-growing cancers, rather than go charging in with invasive treatments, we often use ‘watchful waiting,’ where we observe to see if the cancer spreads,” he said in his article. “These cancers include slow-growing lymphomas and leukemia’s, as well as some forms of prostate cancer. Or sometimes the best option is to use therapies that manage rather than cure the disease, where people can live for years with the cancer.”

But Garvey said cancer always has to be treated immediately.

“Cancer continues to grow until it is treated, so it should be treated as soon as possible but should be properly evaluated prior to treatment,” she said.