Dispelling myths about cancer

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A weekly column by Dr Miles Langdon of South Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group

The chances of surviving cancer are greatly increased when it is detected early.

Belief that cancer often has no signs or symptoms is one of four myths that the health care community aims to debunk.

Other myths are that people do not need to talk about cancer, there is nothing they can do about it, and that they do not have a right to cancer care.

The benefits of early detection are beyond doubt for many cancers including breast, cervical, skin, mouth and colorectal cancers plus some childhood cancers.

For cervical cancer, studies have shown that even a single screening between the ages of 30 and 40 can reduce a woman’s lifetime risk by a third.

Talking about cancer with loved ones is also important as it helps alleviate the feelings of shock,

anger and anxiety that people usually experience when diagnosed with cancer. Support groups can provide a caring environment for people living with cancer sufferers to express their feelings and reduce their anxiety and fear as well as to share information about treatment options and their side effects.

It’s widely reported that you can reduce the risk of cancer by avoiding tobacco, but did you know drinking sensibly, eating a balanced diet and taking exercise can also help? Tobacco is linked to 71 per cent of lung cancer deaths and at least 22 per cent of all cancer deaths while alcohol increases the risk of cancers including mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, bowel and breast.

Obesity is strongly linked to increased risk of bowel, breast, uterine, pancreatic, oesophagus, kidney and gallbladder cancers.

The myth that people do not have a right to cancer care was restricted largely to the developing world, where people often died unnecessarily because of lack of awareness of symptoms and poor access to health services. For example, more than 85 per cent of the 275,000 women who died every year from cervical cancer were from developing countries.

For more information on the signs and symptoms of cancer visit: http://www.nhs.uk/be-clear-on-cancer