Being diagnosed with cancer is a scary, overwhelming moment. You may not know what to do or where to start. You are bombarded with information from family, friends, and especially the internet. How can you make an informed decision about treatment with so much information? How do you separate facts from myths? Here are top five cancer treatment myths debunked:
1. Surgery spreads cancer
This is the most common myth about cancer treatment. Surgery does not cause cancer to spread. This myth started because doctors sometimes discover during surgery that a patient's cancer is more extensive than they thought. Also, cancer can spread to lymph nodes just before surgery and is not caught until months later. But the procedure alone will not cause cancer to spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body.
2. Side effects are worse than the disease
Common side effects of chemotherapy and radiation include nausea, hair loss, and frequent infections. While these effects can be severe, side effects have become much less severe than they were years ago. Also, doctors can prescribe medications to treat the side effects. Side effects of cancer treatment are also highly individual. Some people will have very severe effects, and others may only have slight nausea throughout their treatment.
3. Radiation causes hair loss
Radiation can cause hair loss at the site of therapy, but it will not cause you to lose your hair in untreated areas. This myth originates from the confusion of radiation with chemotherapy. Chemotherapy can make you lose all of your hair. Radiation will only cause hair loss at the site in which your cancer occurs. For example if radiation therapy is applied to your chest, you may lose your chest hair but you will keep the hair on your head, arms, and legs.
4. An organic diet can help
Eating healthy foods can help your body get better nutrition and vitamins. Eating a healthy diet during cancer treatment can help with side effects such as weight loss and fatigue. However, there is no scientific or medical evidence that eating an organic diet prevents or treats cancer. There is also no evidence that an organic diet prevents a cancer relapse or recurrence.
5. Cancer treatment trials are only for terminal patients
There are a number of cancer trials for all patients with different stages of cancer. You don't have to have terminal cancer to take part in a clinical study. There are even clinical trials for cancer prevention as well as treatment. Some clinical trials also test new medications that treat side effects of existing cancer treatments. Other trials follow patients for years to study cancer remission. There are trials you can take part in no matter what stage your cancer is in or what your treatment currently involves.
These are the top five cancer treatment myths. Now that you know the facts from the myths, you can make more informed decisions about your health. You can also find information by talking to a place like Rahway Regional Cancer Center.