reviewed 10/7/2018

Cancer: Myth or fact?

There are more than 100 types of cancer, but many of them are treatable—even curable. Some are even preventable. Nearly 4 in 10 adults will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lifetimes, so it's important to get the facts. Test your cancer knowledge with this quiz.

Myth or fact: Cancer survival rates have not improved since the 1990s.

Myth. Advances in prevention, screening and treatment have increased survival rates for the most common types of cancer. More than half of those living with cancer today were diagnosed 5 or more years ago.

Myth or fact: If no one in your family has had cancer, you won't get it either.

Myth. Only about 5 to 10 percent of cancers are passed down from parents to their children. Instead, most cancers are caused by genetic mutations that occur over a person's lifetime. For example, smoking can cause these mutations. Still, if cancer is in your family history, your doctor may recommend screening or other prevention options.

Myth or fact: You can become too old to be treated for cancer.

Myth. Decisions about cancer treatment shouldn't be based on age alone. In the U.S., more than half of all cancers occur in people who are 65 and older.

Myth or fact: Chemotherapy is the only option for cancer treatment.

Myth. Chemotherapy, or using drugs to kill cancer cells, is just one option for cancer treatment. Depending on the type of cancer, another type of treatment may be available—such as radiation therapy, surgery or immunotherapy.

Myth or fact: As soon as cancer is detected it must be treated.

Myth. In some cases, cancer may be detected early or appear to be slow-growing. If treatment poses more risk than the cancer itself, a doctor may instead closely monitor the cancer and suggest treatment when signs of growth occur.

In general, cancer that is caught in its earliest stages is easier to treat. Screening tests can help spot cancer early. And there are some things you can look for.

Common signs and symptoms of cancer

Sources: American Cancer Society; American Society of Clinical Oncology; National Cancer Institute

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