Navigating the world of cancer can feel like walking through a house of mirrors. Trick corners, dead ends…and the overwhelming feeling that you just don’t recognize yourself any more.

Ever looked into multiple squiggly mirrors at once?

Walking in the world of cancer information misleading as walking in a house of mirrors

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Yeah, something like that.

Through my time as a clinical dietitian, I’ve heard countless questions asked by patients. Some reasonably close to fact, some so out there that you do a double take and think “What?? Where’d you hear that?”…but all coming from a place of genuine concern, and sometimes, fear.

Girl biting nails

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To continue our Amazin’ Fight this month, here are 5 of the most common questions that usually come up – and their answers!

So many of my family members have cancer – will I get it too?

Mother holding hands with child

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Not necessarily! Although genetics do influence cancer risk, about 90-95% of cancers are caused by natural mutations that happen due to aging and environmental damage.  This means that you have the power to reduce your risk, independent of your inherited genes.

In the same manner, just because nobody in your family has cancer doesn’t mean that you automatically have a low risk. Since such a large percentage of cancer is not related to genetics, everyone is at risk and should take prevention seriously.

Read our blog posts about simple foods and lifestyle changes that can help to reduce the risk of cancer.

Strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries

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My friend lived a really healthy lifestyle, but still got cancer. Does prevention really work?

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Image source: Colorado.gov

It can sometimes be difficult to convince people to take the necessary precautions against cancer. Some people live unhealthy lifestyles but never get cancer. And others do their best to live healthy lives, but still find themselves in the doctor’s office receiving bad news.

That being said, it’s impossible to predict the future. And there’s no point speculating what might have happened if things had been done differently.

Research has shown that certain lifestyle changes have been effective in reducing the risk of cancer, and they’re usually healthy practices to ward off other diseases too. Even if cancer does develop, it is these same lifestyle changes that are recommended to increase the chances of treatment success.

So, if these are changes that are generally good for you, and may reduce the risk of developing cancer (or may make it more treatable if it happens anyway) – the real question is, why not?

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I already have cancer – isn’t it too late to change my lifestyle now?

Not true! Adopting a healthy lifestyle during and after treatment can be of significant benefit. Cancer and its treatments can result in a rapid loss of lean muscle mass, making treatment more difficult and leaving patients feeling very weak. Eating well and exercising can help to maintain this precious muscle mass, which improves treatment outcomes and speeds recovery after treatment.

Other lifestyle changes like avoiding cigarette smoke and excessive alcohol intake can also significantly improve chances of treatment success. And of course, managing stress and looking for ways to maintain a positive outlook are important for mental wellbeing throughout the treatment process.

Girl smiling with outstretched arms

Image source: Ivy College

Can eating sugar cause cancer or make it worse?

No! Cancer cells do prefer glucose (a kind of sugar) as their main fuel source. However, so do the cells in the rest of your body. The cells throughout your body rely on glucose for energy, and get this glucose from the foods you eat, including grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, and so on - not just from sugar.

So no, eating sugar will not cause cancer or make it worse. However, eating excess sugar can result in unwanted weight gain – and obesity is one of the risk factors for cancer. Being overweight can also make treatment more difficult. So, there’s no need to completely avoid sugar for fear of cancer – but be careful not to go overboard!

Various types of sugar

Image source: WebMD

Are there any herbs that can cure cancer?

Unfortunately, no. Research has yet to identify herbs or herbal products that can effectively cure cancer. However, some evidence shows that herbs can be used to help with the side effects of treatment, such as nausea (ginger), fatigue (ginseng), and skin damage caused by radiotherapy (aloe).

That being said, you should check with your doctor before taking any herbal products if you are undergoing treatment for cancer. This is because herbal products can interact with the medications in your treatment plan and reduce their effectiveness, or even cause you harm. So do invest the time to research any alternative therapies that have been recommended to you by others before jumping on the bandwagon!

Various herbs and herbal medicines

Image source: Brackenbury Natural Health Clinic

With the right information, motivation, and steps to action, cancer won’t stand a chance in this fight! Don’t forget to do your part by joining us in the Amazin’ Fight – click the link to learn more!

thumb_dscf3744_1024Have a happy, healthy week, Grazers!