The title of this post seems a little obvious. But is it? There can be no doubt, in the hundreds of millions of cases, and millions of deaths, and so many more hospitalizations, Covid19 most certainly is contagious, but over the last two years, one of the top causes of death, along with cancer, and heart disease. And that is in just two years. Yet, after over two and a half years, a leader of the free world, we have so many, who still do not believe in the severity and the challenges posed by a Covid19 diagnosis or how to prevent it. My post is not meant to be about Covid19, but rather, to compare our attitudes towards another major cause of fatalities, at one time, believed by many, to be as contagious if not more so, and actually feared probably more, cancer.
Chances are pretty good, that you would be hard pressed to find anyone who would actually believe that cancer is contagious today. But decades ago, this was not always the case. I was diagnosed in 1988, the tail end of the time period when this belief would begin to fade away. From my experience, I was isolated from my friends, not by my choice, and it was never talked about. Could they have actually believed they might “catch” my Hodgkin’s Lymphoma? Or were they simply avoiding what they felt might be the inevitable, seeing me get really sick from my treatments, or worse die and they did not want to expose themselves to that personal pain?
Of course, as a newlywed back then, my spouse (1st former spouse) had concerns about being exposed to my treatments through residue through either skin contact, breath, or bodily fluids. I know she did not want to have any of those chemical or radiation substances in her body as well. She knew the side effects that I was experiencing, and she did not want that to happen to her. I cannot say I blamed her.
But for those treated in the years and decades before me, “catching cancer” from someone else, was a real concern. And sadly, for the patient, this meant isolation and abandonment during the most difficult time in their life. Emotionally, I believe that this played a negative role in survivorship.
This is the thing that I struggle with. I have had cancer, but as of this post, not Covid19. I have never believed that cancer was contagious, but respect fully the dangers of Covid19. How could we as a society have been more fearful of “catching” something that was never contagious, and be so ignorant to the concerns and necessary precautions against something extremely contagious?
In fairness, there is a lot that we have learned about cancer, and who might be diagnosed with it. But as far as spreading from one person to another, it is not going to happen. Heredity, life choices (such as diet and smoking), environment, and yes, certain viruses (such as HPV – human papillomavirus) can lead to a diagnosis of cancer. But this is far from being contagious. Clusters of certain cancers, often related to environmental events such as Three Mile Island and the Dupont PFAS exposures, make it seem as a contagion type situation, but it is not. Even a pregnant mother with cancer, is not likely to pass her cancer on to her baby.
A main difference between cancer theories among average people in the 1950’s through the early 1990’s and today, lack of social media and the internet. We literally dealt with word of mouth, and if we were learned enough, what we were taught. There was no instantaneous correction to stopping myths from spreading.
Yet, here we are with all the technology, and with the knowledge we have of a highly transmissible virus, between the misinformation, issues with communication by the professionals (which does not mean they were wrong, just that things were learned and thus things changed), and politics, I wonder how we would have handled the myth of cancer being contagious in the 21st century.
While I am on this topic, and as I occasionally see discussed in various forums and internet pages, I would like to dispel some other myths, at least about cancer. Right now, people are too concerned with being “right” to address logic and facts when it comes to Covid19. After two and a half years, you are either following the recommendations or not, and your are accepting the consequences of those decisions or living life intelligently to not intentionally expose oneself.
So, without further ado… from the National Cancer Institute (last updated August of 2018)…
- cancer survival rates continue to improve with many cancers now over 90% survival rate
- sugar does not affect cancer, what it does do, while cancer cells do consume sugar, it does not have an impact on spread or growth or survival. What sugar does do, is affect other concerns of health such as diabetes and obesity
- there is no evidence that artificial sweeteners cause cancer
- attitude does not influence the cancer itself, but can help in allowing social structure leading to better emotional support from family and friends, and that can make a difference
- cancer does not get worse exposed to air
- there is no proof that cell phones cause cancer
- electric power lines are not proven to cause cancer
- antiperspirants are not known to cause cancer
- there is not convincing evidence that hair dyes lead to cancer (a big topic among survivors who want to stay on top of their gray or just go for a color change)
- alternate and complimentary therapies such as certain herbs, while helpful in dealing with side effects from treatments, do not have major scientific proof as to benefits of treating cancer. The important thing, while I personally approve of alternative and complimentary therapies, that it must be done with the blessing of the treating oncologist, because of the potential risk of any herbs interfering with the treatments. Any delay or negative impact can cause issues with the outcome of remission or worse.