Don't Eat the Sugar...and Other Cancer Myths

Once you are diagnosed with cancer, you'll start hearing all kinds of things. Many of them are simply not true. Let's take a look at a few of the myths that surround cancer.

Go the sugar (in moderation)

One that you'll hear most often is that you have to give up sugar when you get cancer. "Sugar feeds cancer," they say. Well, it is true that all of our cells, including cancer cells, need and use sugar (glucose) for energy. However, just not eating sugar does not deprive your body of the blood sugar it requires to survive.

You see, your body is magnificently made. It self-regulates. If you eat less sugar, your body will simply find the glucose it needs to function elsewhere. According to Sloan Memorial Kettering, "Everything about your biology has been naturally selected for at least 600 million years to make sure that no matter what you eat, you keep enough glucose in your system and don’t become deficient. So it’s very hard to affect the system by changing your diet."1

On the other hand, sugar does contribute to obesity and obesity is a bad thing! Not only is it associated with diabetes, it is also believed to contribute to some kinds of cancer. Everything in moderation is a great rule of thumb.

Don't worry. Your cancer isn't contagious

When you are diagnosed with cancer, it sometimes feels like everyone must think it is contagious. A common question asked by newly diagnosed people is, "Where did my friends and family go?"

According to the American Cancer Society, even a fetus is highly unlikely to contract the mother's cancer. If even that close relationship doesn't result in the transfer of cancer cells, certainly shaking hands, kissing, or breathing the same air as someone with cancer is not going to cause a healthy person to come down with the disease.2

The fact is, cancer patients/survivors need their family and friends more than ever after a diagnosis. It is difficult enough to fight the disease without feeling like you are fighting it all alone.

Attitude matters

If you read many of my posts, I think you will see that I am a person with a positive outlook on life. Almost everyone I know who is also a cancer survivor looks at life's glass as half-full. Even when our treatments are difficult and knowing that our lives may be cut short, we tend to look on the bright side of life.

There are lots of people who say that attitude doesn't matter. A positive attitude won't cure cancer. Well, I definitely agree that attitude, good or bad, won't cure cancer. I don't think any study will ever show that simply living with a positive attitude will make a person's cancer go away. However, Dr. Charles L. Shapiro, co-director of the Dubin Breast Center at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York notes, “I believe there is a lot evidence suggesting that pre-cancer personality traits, coping skills, and resiliency affect an individual’s perception of side effects, quality of life, and even clinical outcomes.”3

In no way am I suggesting, however, that anyone who passes away must not have had a positive attitude. That is simply not true. I have known many positive people who ultimately passed away from their cancer. But, who knows if they lived longer than they would have otherwise?

And, as Katherine Puckett, PhD, chief of the Division of Mind-Body Medicine at Cancer Treatment Centers of America, said, living with optimism does not mean that you can't also take time for some tears. "So often I have heard a loved one say to a cancer patient who is crying, ‘Stop crying. You know you have to be positive,’” she said. “However, when we make space for people to express all of their feelings, rather than bottling them up inside, it is then easier for them to be optimistic. It is OK to allow tears to flow — these can be a healthy release.3

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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