Myths about cancer

By Bushra Majid
Fri, 02, 20

In the era of electricity, microwaves have gained popularity as they can be convenient at times, especially when you are running out of time....


Last night, Aslam passed away. He had lost, finally. I had won the battle with him, but it was so easy that winning didn’t give me any contentment. What’s a battle when your opponent had already given up, even before the fight had commenced. Everybody hates me; it’s their right to. Unfortunately for them, I exist and there is nothing they can do about it. Nobody wants to be hated, especially the way that I am and the only joy for me is to fight a good battle. I am not all that bad. Don’t believe me yet? Well! Let me prove it by clearing 12 myths associated with me and 12 things you should be really doing.

Myth#1: Plastic bottles cause cancer

BPA abbreviated for Bisphenol A is an industrial chemical that has been used to make plastic containers, especially water bottles and also to coat the inside of cans. Concerns were raised questioning the effects of BPA on human health and it was confirmed to be a health hazard in high quantities. Since then its quantity has been monitored throughout the world and efforts have been made to keep its level to a minimum, which is safe for health, proved by hundreds of studies.

Myth# 2: Plastic containers when heated cause cancer

In the era of electricity, microwaves have gained popularity as they can be convenient at times, especially when you are running out of time. Using plastic containers to heat up your meals is advisable only for microwaveable containers; those that have it written on them. An old plastic plate or container that has cracks or food stains or their paint coming out should be avoided to be placed in the microwave. Those plastic containers that come with food in them are for storage purpose and not to be put in the oven. Still, if this argument isn’t convincing enough, you can always opt for glass containers.

Myth# 3: Microwaves cause cancer

Plastic containers on one side, many believe that heating food in the microwave itself can cause cancer. Microwaves are essentially electro-magnetic, and they heat up stuff by inducing a force of friction among molecules of the food, so they don’t cause cancer. That’s another fact that nothing can replace the quality of heating and cooking stuff at open flame as the heat generated by microwaves can reach up to only a cm.

Myth# 4: I am contagious!

Seriously, guys! That’s an insult. I am not like an STD and I am using this platform to clear once and for all that I am, in no way, contagious. I have seen people so realistically believing it that they had abandoned the person diagnosed with cancer and left them alone to fight with me, unjust I would say! Certain viruses that may cause cancer can be transmitted via contact but not the cancer itself.

Myth# 5: If I run in your family, you’re bound to have it; if I don’t, you aren’t.

Certain cancers run in families. If any of your first degree relative has been affected, there is a possibility of you developing it, too. But that surely does not mean that it’s a rule of thumb! Aslam, whom I mentioned earlier would always complain of having the cancer when he had an absolute negative family history. It happens man, that’s what I am telling you!

Myth# 6: Hair dyes and cosmetics cause cancer

Hair dyes and cosmetics used to contain lead that can be carcinogenic. Products synthesized nowadays are mostly lead-free. Always look for ingredients of the product that you purchase and check its authenticity.

Myth# 7: Deodorants can cause cancer

As for hair dyes, deodorants may contain Aluminium, which was popularized to cause cancer as it might be getting absorbed through the skin. No study to date has proved this, so might as well use it or you can always go for stuff that is devoid of this compound!

Myth# 8: Mammography is too much radiation

Poor doctors, being advocates of health, advise the ladies to get mammography done after the age 40 for breast cancer screening and one of the most commonly raised concerns from the people they get is “Can the test itself possibly cause cancer?” The answer is no; the dose of radiation is very low. Breast cancer is the number one killer from malignancy among Pakistani women, so please go schedule your mammography if you haven’t!

Myth# 9: Biopsy can disseminate my cancer

Doctors introduce patients to me and ask their permission for biopsy and often are refused. They believe that the “loha” (metal or the biopsy needle) isn’t good for the cancer and will only cause it to spread. Well, if it was true, doctors wouldn’t have asked for it in the first place. They don’t do biopsy for tumours they think can disseminate during the process. Having a biopsy means they know what subtype of cancer they are dealing with and what chemotherapy to give you.

Myth# 10: No sugars for cancer patients

Firstly, I am penetrating my roots deep inside their bodies and you deprive them of sugars, seriously? Sugars doesn’t have to be sweet treats, they are carbohydrates, too. If you restrict cancer patients from these, it’s no surprise they will deteriorate, not forgetting that they are already losing weight and are anorexic. If you don’t allow carbs and sugars, it only gives me strength to easily overtake the body as I know ways to feed myself, so might as well give it to them.

Myth# 11: Now that I have cancer, quitting smoking isn’t necessary

Smokers diagnosed with cancers don’t feel the need to quit smoking as they fail to understand the course of their disease. It’s true that they have a diagnosis they can’t change but what they can do is to stop smoking. This will help them to relieve their cough and ease the pain to a point that can be appreciated.

Myth# 12: Drinking glasses upon glasses of fresh juices will cure my cancer

People do a lot of googling after their diagnosis and find many alternative options for their cancer. Some say that drinking carrot juice or juices of fruits and vegetables will completely eradicate the disease. Others, including herbal and hikmat people claim to cure it completely. If this was true, would not a revolution be already made in the history of mankind as far as treatment of cancer is concerned. You will not believe, but late Steve Jobs, founder and CEO of Apple had a rare yet treatable type of pancreatic cancer, however refused to seek medical help as he was convinced of overcoming it through alternative ways. He read an article online stating the cure of pancreatic cancer with carrot juice and chose to go with that instead. Seven years later, when his health deteriorated, he realized it was better to go for surgery, but it was already too late. He did undergo surgery, had a liver transplant but eventually passed away two years later, having regretted his decision of not seeking help early. He was only 56 at that time.

And for what you should be really doing, here are 12 essential points to bear in mind!

Do’s# 1: Never take symptoms lightly

A new born that develops jaundice is mostly not worrisome, however, if anyone gets it in adulthood especially older age must never be neglected. Similarly, blood in stool or cough, anorexia, weight loss, fever, night sweats, constant pain, malaise, and lethargy are some of the red flags that must be promptly addressed and never ignored.

Do’s# 2: Consult for help at “right” time and from the “right” physician

I would mention here my friend, Mr Jobs, who regretted his decision of not consulting a doctor when his cancer was in very initial stages. He did consult one later, but it was not the “right” time. Similarly, not every physician is specialized to treat cancer. Those who do are called oncologists. Obviously, management of cancer is a multidisciplinary task but consulting the right doctor is very necessary.

Do’s# 3: Take tests from a reliable lab

This is from a cancer survivor herself, who advised the audience in a seminar on cancer awareness to take tests from a reliable lab as they make all the difference. Her initial report came out to be a negative from one lab and since she was not convinced by the results she retook the test from another lab which gave the opposite results. So now we know why!

Do’s# 4: Acknowledge and believe you can beat me

Many people go into denial upon hearing my name. They can’t really process the news but here is a thing. The sooner you acknowledge my presence, the better. Because then you will get up on your feet and struggle to keep alive. You would want to kick me hard by trying every option out there to get well and that’s exactly you should do. Never give up. I know it’s easier said than done but not impossible or else prepare to let me win over and trust me you don’t want that.

Do’s# 5: If you are advised to take adjuvant chemo or radio, then you must have it

Most cancers require chemo or radiotherapy after surgery and sometimes patients are reluctant to go through it considering the surgery to be sufficient. We know that the side effects of these are inevitable but if your doctor advises you to have them, then please don’t refuse.

Do’s#6: Never forget to follow up

I usually go away after you had me removed and then further deleted all my traces from your body with chemo but only if you regularly follow up with your doctor. A good remission period can be ensured by timely follow up with doctors or I am notorious for coming back.

Do’s# 7: Eat healthy, get moving and lose those extra pounds

A healthy body, mind and soul all are keys for good health. Take plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables especially those rich in antioxidants, remain active and avoid being couch potatoes and exercise. Obesity, my friends, is now one of the emerging risk factors for cancer.

Do’s# 8: Quit smoking

Tobacco contains carcinogens that can cause at least 70 different types of cancers. It increases your susceptibility for a malignancy. Not only that, your smoke can be equally harmful for those around you, the passive smokers. Studies are now showing it to be more harmful. What’s their fault and why should they suffer because of you? By quitting I not just mean the cigarettes, but all its form be it cigars, chewing tobacco, hookahs, e-cigarettes, all of them!

Do’s# 9: Self-exam and screening

Certain cancers can be cured completely if they are detected early. Best examples of these are breast and cervical cancers in women, which are the most common cancers. Do a self-exam for former, at least once a month and a pap smear for latter. Colonoscopy is recommended after 50 years or earlier if you have a family history of colorectal cancer. Vaccinations against HPV and Hepatitis B virus can help prevent Cervical and Liver cancers respectively.

Do’s# 10: Share your story, raise awareness

People connect with those who had undergone similar experience as they can be relatable. Sharing your story to help people and raise awareness is actually a very noble deed. It might not be easy but just for the sake of others, I encourage you to do so. Who knows how many lives you might be saving!

Do’s #11: Be positive in every step of the way

Going into depression, anxiety, anger and frustration are common emotions that people diagnosed with cancer go through. It’s important to support them in every step; their counselling should be done, and their caregivers should be taught to help them cope with it. It happened to you; could have been someone else. The real deal is to be positive and tell me in my face that you can and will beat me up, something that Aslam didn’t do!

Do’s# 12: Always hope and pray

With every struggle that you take and every option that you seek, the process is not completed without tons of hope and prayers. Pray for yourself, ask others to pray for you and hope you will come out of it eventually.

These facts were shared during a cancer awareness seminar held at Liaquat National Hospital, Karachi. They also highlighted the existence of a cancer support group that is being run in the hospital by volunteers and cancer survivors since 2016.