Wear Red Day for heart health awareness was not the only health-related special day this past week. February 4 was World Cancer Day 2014, this year carrying the theme of “Debunk the Myths.” The four myths identified by the World Cancer Day sponsor, Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) in Geneva, Switzerland, are:
Myth #1: We don’t need to talk about cancer.
Myth #2: Cancer has no signs or symptoms.
Myth #3: There’s nothing I can do about cancer.
Myth #4: I don’t have the right to cancer care.
Various groups and individuals have added to the conversation with their own insights into the many myths about cancer. Cy Stein, M.D., Ph.D., the Arthur & Rosalie Kaplan Chair in Medical Oncology at City of Hope, offers these ten myths he has heard from patients:
1. A diagnosis of cancer is a death sentence.
2. If I have cancer, I’m cursed by God—and the corollary, God is going to get me out of this mess. Cancer is not a curse, and patients must take charge of their own treatment plan.
3. All chemotherapy has dreadful side effects and is not worth it.
4. I’m 80 years old, and how much time do I have anyway? This may be a legitimate question sometimes, but in many cases there’s plenty of time left.
5. From women: If I have a mastectomy, my partner won't love me anymore.
6. From men: If I lose my potency, my partner won't love me anymore.
7. I did something to cause my cancer. That belief can be true sometimes, as with the clear connection between smoking and lung cancer. But most of the time, it’s absolutely false.
8. If I enroll in a clinical trial, that makes me a guinea pig.
9. I like you personally, doctor, but I don't trust the system. The pharmaceutical companies are all dishonest, and the doctors don't really want to cure cancer—how then could they make a living?
10. I can control the progression of my cancer. Some people have the mistaken impression that they can improve their outcome by: a) thinking intensely; b) taking daily coffee enemas; c) going to a clinic in Mexico for “alternative” cancer treatments; d) taking megadoses of vitamins; e) living a “natural lifestyle”; or f) all of the above.
If any cancer patient thinks, “No one cares about me,” that’s a myth, too. Cancer has always been a prime target of fundraisers held in the salon community. To mark World Cancer Day, this year, Racine Salon & Spa, Islip, NY, has washed the entire month in purple, the ribbon color of all cancer as opposed to any singular cancer.