How much do you know about cancer? Can you tell which of these information you know are fact or fiction?

Dr. Faye Lim, consultant at Division of Radiation Oncology – National Cancer Centre Singapore, debunks some common myths in a SingHealth feature.

1. All cancers can be detected early through regular check-ups and medical technology.

Sadly, not all cancers are easily detected early. People should be aware of body changes while regularly attending cancer screenings. For breast cancer, women can identify changes by doing breast self-examination.

2. Cancer is a death sentence.

Medical advances have made it possible to extend the life of a person living with cancer. Many types of treatments are used in combination to try to cure or, at least, improve a patient’s life expectancy and quality of life. They can also enrol in clinical trials that allow access to newly developed drugs.

3. It cannot be cancer if there is no pain.

Pain is not necessarily a good indicator of cancer since some types come in unremarkable ways. This makes regular screening, such as mammography, cervical smears and faecal occult blood testing, significant to detect cancer in its early stages.

4. If your mother has breast cancer, you will get it too.

If your family has a history of breast cancer, then there is a higher chance that you can develop it too. Letting the doctor know about your family history is important to get early screening and to be given the option of genetic counselling.

5. Re-using plastic water bottles can cause cancer.

No convincing scientific evidence supports this claim, as well as storing or freezing water in plastic bottles.

6. Frequent use of antiperspirants, hair dyes and make-up products can cause cancer.

The link between cancer and the use of these products has not been proven. The development of cosmetics is highly regulated, ensuring the safety of such products before being sold in the market.

7. Using headphones and getting exposed to radio-frequency energy can cause cancer.

There is no evidence yet to prove the association between radio-frequency waves from mobile phones and the development of cancer, but researchers are looking for new evidence.

8. Eating processed meat, red meat, barbecued food, instant noodles and sugar can cause cancer.

There are many factors that contribute to the development of cancers. Identifying a root cause for the disease is problematic. To lessen the risk of cancer, one must have a healthy diet, exercise regularly and get screened often.

9. Women with big breasts have a higher risk of getting breast cancer.

All women have a risk of developing breast cancer, but there is currently no link between breast size and the development of this type of cancer. Regular screening and breast self-examination are important.

10. All cancer treatments will make one nauseous and bald.

Not all patients will have nausea or hair loss with today’s medical advances in chemotherapy drugs. Also, there are many anti-nausea medication available to minimise these side-effects. MIMS