You are currently viewing Myths About Cancer  – Close the care gap

Myths About Cancer – Close the care gap

February 4th every year is World Cancer Day.

The fight against cancer is one that deserves every bit of attention due to its fast-growing rate, but over time, it has seen hostility from people who should join to fight this common enemy. This is largely due to myths thriving in different parts of the world. These myths have contributed to the increasing number of cancer cases and even deaths recorded especially in Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMIC), a category which Nigeria unfortunately belongs to.
Cancer is a disease that affects the human cell. It obstructs the human cell from performing optimally, spreading rapidly to other normal cells.

Below are some myths about cancer that thrive in Nigeria.

#1.Cell Phones Cause Cancer:
During an argument with a friend on how much harm technology has done, he mentioned how cell phones could cause of cancer which the World Health Organisation WHO regards as the second-leading cause of death. Cell phones do emit radiations (Electromagnetic Frequencies, EMFs) but the EMFs they emit are very low and are known as non-ionizing frequencies. In the electromagnetic spectrum (which represents all the possible frequencies of electromagnetic energy), frequencies are basically divided into ionizing and non-ionizing frequencies. The non-ionizing radiations which cell phones emit have no direct effect on the DNA or cells, which are the base of cancer development in the human body. Currently, cell phones do not have any direct relationship with cancer.

2#.Power Lines Do Cause Cancer
Some years ago, a high-voltage power line had to pass through a nearby community. Trying to educate about the dangers of staying close to high-voltage powerline, some persons erroneously informed that too much exposure to power lines could cause cancer. While power lines also emit radiations, their radiations are of extremely low frequencies, far lesser than radio frequencies. They also (like cell phones) emit non-ionizing radiations which may affect other human parts, but have no direct effect on the DNA or the human cell.

#3. Witchcraft and Other Mystical Sources Cause Cancer:
A publication by Ahmed M Sarki and Babangida L Roni reveals that a common and long-held myth about cancer in Northern Nigeria is that people get cancer from mystical sources originating in the forest or bush, which translates as “jeji” or “daji” in the Hausa language. They believe that when mystical forces from the forest or bush “bedevil” someone, that person gets jeji and the only remedy is to approach religious leaders for prayers while visiting traditional herbalists, who use local herbs, shrubs, or a cocktail of both as therapy.

4#.Western Treatments Worsen Cancer:
Ahmed M Sarki and Babangida L Roni again noted in their publication that this myth is also predominant among people in Northern Nigeria. This is because the population of Northern Nigeria, including the political class, has reservations and shared mistrust of Western medications, treatments, and healthcare interventions.
Currently, Western treatments of cancer are the only verified means to treat cancer.
Herbal Products Cure Cancer
This is mostly purported by people who claim to be doctors of herbal medicine. They formulate mixtures and promote them as verified cure for cancer. While some studies show that some herbal products may help patients cope with Western cancer treatment, it rules out the certainty that they can cure cancerous cells.
If A Family Member Gets Cancer, Subsequent Generations Will Get Cancer.

5#. Cancer is caused by gene: mutations (changes in the behaviour of the genes) and these gene mutations can be transferred to offspring. According to a report in 2020 by WHO, inherited gene mutations accounts for only 5-10% of known cancer cases, showing that most cancers are not caused by inherited gene mutations. Inherited gene mutations alone may not give cancer, you may need one or more gene mutations to get cancer.

#6.Cancer Is Not In My Family History, So I’m Safe:
Several factors may predispose to the risk of cancer, especially lifestyle. Gene mutations are not only inherited, it started with someone in a family with records of cancer and can therefore occur in the absence of hereditary factors.

#7.Cancer Is Contagious:
Generally, cancer is not a contagious disease. WHO in 2020 referred to it as a Non-Communicable Disease (NCD). Cancer cannot be transferred through physical contact with diagnosed patients, it may only show up in a person who received a tissue or an organ that has a history of cancer during transplant. Doctors generally avoid donations from persons with history of cancer.

#8.Eating Sugar Makes Cancer Worse
Although studies have shown that glucose is the primary fuel with which cancerous cells survives and multiply rapidly, they do not recommend that not eating sugar makes the cancerous cells die or disappear. Glucose is also needed by other internal organs and tissues for survival.

#9.Cancer Is Death Sentence:
This particular myth has a more direct effect on victims of cancer. It conditions their minds to see death as ‘the only way out’, making some persons end their lives earlier than it should. Over the years, the number of deaths to cancer has seen a decline. Early detection and access to special treatments are key to surviving cancer-battles. Although cancer may lead to death, it is not a death sentence. Advancements are made regularly in making treatments available.

Credit: Jeremiah Adejoh


Welcome to Pharmahub!