There is a lot of false information about cancer, and it is important to remember that not everything that you hear or read about is true.

5 common myths about cancer

Many people may believe that if you are diagnosed with cancer, you will die. This fear can sometimes put them off getting medical advice around symptoms. However, modern medicine has changed a lot over the years. Cancer survival rates are the highest they have ever been with more people being cured than not.  For some early-stage cancers the cure rate is over 90 percent.

There are many different types of chemotherapy medications used to treat cancers and most (not all) do not cause you to lose your hair. Newer treatments like targeted therapies, monoclonal antibodies, and immune therapies, do not make hair come out at all.

While it is not unusual for someone to feel they have done something wrong when they are diagnosed with cancer, it is simply untrue. Getting cancer is not your fault. Cancer is a complicated disease. There is still a lot to be learned about why cancer starts, but we do know that you are not to blame for your diagnosis.

While it is important that we take care of ourselves and others by not smoking, being SunSmart, eating healthy and keeping active, people can develop cancer regardless of what they do. Everyone with cancer and their whanau needs care and support and not blame or guilt.

A good diet, full of nutritious food is important for overall wellbeing and maintaining a healthy weight. Once you have or have had cancer, you can't "eat your way out" of it with dietary changes alone. Extreme dieting can often be more harmful than helpful. After cancer treatment, we recommend following New Zealand Eating and Activity Guidelines if you can. There may be specific situations where this advice may not apply and guidance from your treatment team may be needed.

Many people want to know if they can fight cancer by eating certain foods or taking vitamins or supplements. There are no studies that prove that any special diet or any combinations of food, can slow or cure or keep cancer from coming back.

These include: macrobiotic, low acid/alkaline, intermittent fasting, ketogenic diets (low carbohydrate, high fat) and diets centred on specific vitamins, minerals, dietary supplements or herbs.

Eating well, keeping active and maintaining a healthy body weight have been shown to reduce the risk of developing some cancers.

Talk to your treatment team if you are unable to eat well, or if you want to learn more about any dietary supplements, herbs or special diets, as they may make cancer treatments less effective.

More information:

New Zealand Eating and Activity Guidelines

Healthy eating

Healthy eating and cancer treatment

Blood tests are mostly used to check your general health and how well your body is working. While blood tests may tell your doctor that there is something happening in your body, more tests, such as a biopsy, are needed to tell for sure if cancer is present. Scientists are working on developing new diagnostic blood tests, but few are available for routine use at this stage.

Last updated: January 9, 2023