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10 Cancer Myths Busted

Let's clear 10 major misconceptions related to causes and treatment of cancer

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It was a small get-together to celebrate a friend’s work anniversary. We were privileged to have a cancer specialist with us. As we waited for the dinner to be served, the conversation shifted from chitchats to discussion on cancer. The doctor was happy to field our questions. Here are some common cancer myths that he helped debunk:

Guest: Doctor, it is believed that all cancers lead to death. Is it true that cancer is a death sentence?

Doctor: Many have asked this question – is cancer a death sentence? Let me tell you, cancer is not a fatal disease if diagnosed at an early stage. With early detection, the right information, and effective treatment you can drastically increase the probability of recovery and survival.

In the last few decades, advances have been made across all stages of treatment – prevention, screening, treatment, medicine, and recovery aids. However, the cost can be pretty high. Investment in cancer policies is on the rise. Healthy people are buying these plans to provide themselves and their loved ones, large financial coverage in case of an unfortunate diagnosis of cancer.  I recommend my patients to invest in cancer insurance as it goes a long way in supporting their cancer treatment.

Guest: There is a belief that cancer is a lifestyle disease and a gift of modernity. Did it not exist earlier?

Doctor: This is one of the biggest cancer myths. Lifestyle changes, unhealthy diet, air pollution and tobacco consumption are key risk factors for cancer, but they are not the sole causes of the disease.

Did you know, the oldest known example of cancer has been detected in the fossil of a human being who walked the Earth approximately 1.7 million years ago? Therefore, cancer is not a modern disease as believed by many.

Guest: I do not need to be worried, no one in my family has cancer. After all, it is hereditary and contagious.

Doctor: We do not have any proof that cancer spreads from one person to another. Cancers are caused by the genetic changes that a human body undergoes. Though genetic mutations can be inherited, hereditary cancer accounts for only 5-10% of all cancers1. However, there is no guarantee that you will not have cancer because no one in your family has suffered from it. Precaution is always better than cure.

Guest: Can antiperspirants and deodorants cause breast cancer?

Doctor: Ah, that... There were rumors that underarm antiperspirants cause breast cancer. However, no scientific evidence has been found about chemicals in antiperspirants causing cancer. Also, the myth about under-wire brassieres causing breast cancer is yet to be validated by medical research2.  

Guest: There is a belief that surgery or a tumor biopsy will cause cancer to spread. Then how can surgery be a cancer treatment option?

Doctor: Cancer is mostly diagnosed by biopsy, which is a surgical procedure. There have been instances where a biopsy of a tumor has caused seeding (spread of cancer cell through bloodstream due to a cut made in the cancerous area for biopsy)3.

However, the chances are quite low. We take every precaution and follow highly efficient procedures during the biopsy. If you do not want to go for surgery or biopsy then opt for tumor marker testing, ultrasounds, color Doppler sonograms, or whole-body thermography.

Guest: Can acidic diets cause cancer?

Doctor: Good to see you all are so aware. Diets can be acidic, alkaline or neutral. A pH of 7 is neutral. Foods with less than that are considered acidic. I know almost all of us to suffer from acidity once in a while. [Laughter].

Cancer cells, like other cells in the body, thrive better in a slightly acidic environment. However, foods with high acidic pH alone do not make the body’s pH too acidic, as the body has a mechanism to automatically balance its pH value. Still, eating a balanced diet is recommended4.

Guest: Can negative thoughts and attitudes cause the development of cancer?  

Doctor: Negative emotions can adversely affect the body’s immune health. However, they alone cannot cause cancer. Positive thinking keeps you ready for all the challenges of life and facilitates cancer care.

Guest: I know superfoods can prevent cancer.

Doctor: Foods rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties are considered superfoods. Intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grain, and other non-inflammatory foods help the body to fight inflammation and boost overall health. But remember, anyone can be affected by cancer.

Guest: It is said that eating sugar will make cancer grow faster. Is it just a myth or is there some fact to it?5

Doctor: Hope you did not see me having the extra bowl of gajar halwa? Don’t tell my wife. [Peals of laughter]

Refined sugar can cause several lifestyle diseases, but they alone are not responsible for the growth of cancer.  You will find a lot of research on it. All cells, healthy as well as cancer cells, depend on blood sugar for energy. But giving more sugar to cancer cells doesn't speed their growth, nor does its deprivation slow them down.

This misconception is due to the use of Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans. PET uses a small amount of radioactive tracer — typically a form of glucose. All tissues in our body absorb some of this tracer. Some tissues including that of cancer cells absorb more amount of the tracer. This led to the belief that cancer cells grow faster on sugar6.

Guest: Cancer treatment is very expensive. What should we do?

Doctor: It’s true that cancer treatment can touch the roof and burn a hole in your bank account. However, if you buy a cancer insurance plan, it will absorb most of your medical expenses. If cancer is detected in the early stages, the treatment costs can be much lower. Before we break for the day, as a medical practitioner, I advise all of you to watch out for the respective symptoms. If any, go for the relevant tests.

It is advisable to have a dedicated Cancer Insurance Plan so that all your financial burdens are taken care of in case of any unfortunate event of cancer detection. The proactive financial planning will lend your family a secure financial future while offering you a peaceful state of mind to battle the disease.

Max Life Insurance brings you a one-of-a-kind cancer insurance plan with unique features:

1. Covers all stages of cancer

2. Plan can be bought online

3. 20% lump sum upfront on detection of early-stage cancer

4. Future premiums waiver on cancer detection

5. Smokers are covered as well

6. Maximum cover amount of up to Rs. 50 lakhs

7. Provision for multiple claims for early-stage cancer

8. 100% cover amount payable even during late-stage detection

9. Paperless transaction

10. 10% increase in covers up to 150% of the original amount for every claim-free year







Max Life Cancer Insurance Plan (UIN- 104N093V03) - A Non-Linked Non-Participating Individual Pure Risk Health Insurance Plan. Benefits defined under the plan are payable only on the diagnosis of Cancer as specified. There is no maturity or surrender benefit available under the plan.

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