Fact or Fabrication: Five Persistent Cancer Myths

The oldest description of cancer was discovered in Egypt, dating as far back as 3000 BC. The document titled Edwin Smith Papyrus was an ancient textbook on trauma surgery. The wordsmith described eight cases of tumors of the breast that were removed by cauterization, then further exclaiming that “there is no treatment.” Although the word “cancer” was not mentioned in the text, the description of the disease highlighted distinct resemblances to breast cancer.

With ongoing discoveries in science and technology, it is safe to say that we have come a long way since then. Our understanding of cancer has changed dramatically, except for a few misconceptions that continue to cloud many people’s views of cancer.

In this article, we will be clarifying five myths and falsehoods with evidence, not by rhetorics or anecdotes. The goal is to conclude whether a particular statement is fact or fiction, which should lead to a better and healthier understanding of cancer and its impact. Let us begin with the first misconception:

  1. Is cancer a man-made disease?

Humans are pinpointed as the pests or plague that inhibit the earth. With the rise of factories releasing chemicals into the environment, cancer being a man-made disease is more prominent in the public consciousness today than it was in earlier centuries. There may be some truth to us causing our own demise, but cancer has existed as long as humans have. Egyptian and Greek physicians from thousands of years ago described the disease in their writings, and scientists today uncovered tell-tale signs of cancer in a 3000-year-old skeleton. In fact, even dinosaurs suffered from cancer.

Cancer existed long before we had the technology to create the simplest of drugs. The truth is, more people are living long enough to develop cancer because of our success in contracting infectious diseases and other historically-known causes of death, which include old age and malnutrition. For example, when we age or fail to take proper care of our bodies, the DNA damage in our cells can build up and develop into cancer.

  1. Can my positive outlook determine my cancer recovery?

There is no known link between attitudes and cancer recovery. Sadness, anxiety, guilt, and fear are all normal parts of grieving and learning to cope with significant life changes such as cancer. Therefore, it is okay to outpour your negative emotions. If you are suffering from cancer, trying to ignore these feelings can make you feel twice as lonely. In fact, it can make the emotional pain worse.

On the bright side, maintaining a positive outlook can make the reality of cancer less stressful and overwhelming not just for you, but for your friends and family, too.

  1. Is there no progress in finding a cure?

There is no truth to this particular misconception. Thousands of scientists around the world conduct ongoing research to find a cure for chronic degenerative diseases and immune disorders. In fact, the survival rates of cancer patients have increased tremendously in the last two decades.

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), “The death rate from cancer in the US has declined steadily over the past two decades. As of 2015, the cancer death rate for men and women combined had fallen 26% from its peak in 1991. This decline translates to nearly 2.4 million deaths averted during this time period.”

In a nutshell, we are closer than ever to finding a definitive cure for cancer. Aside from conventional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, alternative cancer treatments are also on the rise. Alternative cancer therapies lessen the side effects of their traditional counterparts. As scientists and doctors expand their discoveries, we can hope that more non-toxic methods will be added to the cancer treatment armamentarium.

  1. Are superfoods myths?

Certain foods are deemed as superfoods” for their health-enhancing benefits, which include protecting the body against cancer. “Superfoods have extra-large doses of vitamins and minerals that can help us ward off diseases and live a longer, healthier life,” said Despina Hyde, a registered dietitian with the weight management program at New York University’s Langone Medical Center.

Nutrients of certain superfoods contain the following:

  • Antioxidants, which may help in preventing cancer
  • Healthy fats, which lower cholesterol levels and prevent heart disease
  • Fiber, which wards off diabetes and digestive problems
  • Phytochemicals or the chemicals in plants responsible for deep colors and smells, which can have numerous benefits in preventing serious health conditions.

However, it is important to remember that for cancer prevention, the overall balance of diet and lifestyle still plays a significant role in your cancer risk.

  1. Is a vegan diet cancer-proof?

Eating a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins provides the body with the nutrients it needs to boost immunity against various diseases. Although a plant-based diet is associated with lower risks of severe conditions, vegans are far from bulletproof.

“Some vegans think they’ll never get sick, but the fact is, vegans, do get cancer and heart disease,” says Jack Norris, RD, and Ginny Messina, RD, vegans themselves and authors of the new book Vegan for Life: Everything You Need to Know to Be Healthy and Fit on a Plant-Based Diet. They add that “a plant-based diet is not a 100 percent protection against any disease, but it certainly can reduce your risk.”


Approximately 38.5 percent of men and women will develop some form of malignancy during his or her lifetime. Despite this grim prognosis, several doctors, scientists, and researchers have made outstanding progress in understanding the biology of cancer cells. Only time will tell when humanity will discover an immediate cure for cancer. But instead of waiting for new breakthroughs, you can do a lot to protect yourself right now — starting with knowing the difference between a cancer fact or fabrication.

Ensure that you are cancer-free today

If you fear the possibility of a cancer diagnosis, it is best to start living a healthy lifestyle, partnered by regular check-ups and screen tests that can help detect cancer. If cancer is detected, do not hesitate to contact New Hope Medical Center at 480-757-6573 for alternative cancer treatments that will improve your quality of life.

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