Despite someone being diagnosed with cancer every two minutes in the UK, there are still a lot of misconceptions about the life-changing disease. We reached out to Macmillan Cancer Support to help dispel the most common, and in some ways dangerous, cancer myths.
Myth 1: A cancer patients’ attitude will determine their prognosis
There has been a lot of controversy lately over the power positive thinking can have over your health, especially when you have a serious illness. Richard Elworthy, Macmillan Information Development Nurse, says:
“Your cancer prognosis depends on a range of factors such as what type of cancer you have, how much it has spread and how quickly it is growing. A patient who’s diagnosed early has a greater chance of survival because it’s likely that the cancer hasn’t had the chance to get too big or spread. Your age and general health before cancer, and how you respond to treatment will have an impact too.”
Elworthy says that while some cancer patients say having a positive attitude helps them when coping with cancer, it is not helpful to imply that someone’s prognosis is dependent on this. He says:
“Cancer and its treatment can be a very scary experience. People can feel helpless and too tired to be positive all of the time, but this doesn’t mean they can’t survive their disease. A positive attitude means different things to different people and there should be no pressure on anyone to feel or act in a certain way.”
Myth 2: You’ll be fine once you’ve recovered from cancer
When someone finds out they’re in remission or that they’re ‘cancer-free’, it’s an undeniable cause for celebration, but that doesn’t mean their life simply goes back to the way it had been before their diagnosis.
“When you have had cancer, feelings and emotions can come and go quickly. Some people may feel fine but others may find it very difficult to adjust to life after cancer treatment. Cancer can be life-changing, and many people feel that things will never be the same again. You don’t stop feeling the physical or emotional effects of cancer just because you have finished treatment. If your body has changed because of treatment, the way you feel about yourself may also be affected.”
Elworthy also explains that some cancer patients on Macmillan’s online community say they even have ‘survivor’s guilt’. This is particularly the case when someone has seen friends die from cancer. As Susan, one of the online community users explains:
“Seven people in my extended family have been diagnosed in the last five years including me and four of them are dead. I feel like we’ve all be lined up against a wall and someone is playing Russian Roulette with us. Like someone’s just pointed a gun at my head and the man next to me got shot. I should be so happy I am in remission but all I feel is sick with guilt that I’m alive and they aren’t. What makes me so special?”