Many still believe myths associated with cancer, reports American Cancer Society study

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Many still believe myths associated with cancer, reports American Cancer Society study

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

A recent survey conducted by the American Cancer Society has turned up some surprising results: Americans generally hold false beliefs about the nature of cancer and its treatment, even though many believe they are well informed.

Health experts say this ignorance could be dangerous: People may be making poor health decisions — avoiding cancer screenings or rejecting potentially life-saving treatments — based on their incorrect notions.

The most common misconception is that surgery causes cancer to spread. Decades ago, cancer often was not discovered until it was very advanced. At that stage, surgical efforts were rarely successful, and many patients died soon after procedures were performed. This may have given rise to the mistaken belief that the surgeries caused the disease to worsen.

Another commonly held myth is that there is a cure for cancer, but the medical industry is withholding it in order to continue profiting from the sale of less effective treatments and medications.

Believers in this “conspiracy theory” may not be guided by it in making their personal health decisions, though. The American Cancer Society says that even though many people are suspicious of the medical industry in general, they have a trusting relationship with their own physicians and are likely to follow their advice.

Almost 20 percent of the people surveyed felt that medications for cancer pain were ineffective.

About 10 percent expressed the belief that cancer could be cured with a positive attitude alone, while a similar number felt that there was no effective treatment for cancer.

The fact is, cancer survival and treatments — including pain management — have vastly improved in the last thirty years.

Results of the survey appear in the August 1 issue of Cancer, a journal published by the American Cancer Society.

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