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Cancer Mythbusters

  • private detective with magnifying glass

    In this series, we dive into the many myths and misconceptions in the world of cancer. Every episode, we look at a myth and debunk it with the help of our world-leading clinicians and researchers.

    Episode 1: Breast Lumps and Cancer

    While most breast lumps are not cancer, there are many other myths that persist about the relationship between the two. Beth Overmoyer, MD, director of the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Program at Dana-Farber's Susan F. Smith Center for Women's Cancers, helps set the story straight on some of the biggest questions about breast lumps.

    Episode 2: Cancer Genetics and Prevention

    In this episode, we explore the myth that cancer is always inevitable — and that there’s nothing we can do to prevent it from coming our way. With the help of Huma Q. Rana, MD, clinical director of the Center for Cancer Genetics and Prevention at Dana-Farber, we explore the relationship between genetics, cancer, and cancer risk, and address how our lifestyle choices affect our chances of developing cancer.

    Episode 3: Smoking and Lung Cancer

    Every time tobacco is inhaled, it creates conditions in the body almost ideally suited to the formation of cancer. So how do we explain lung cancer in non-smokers, and are there significant risk factors for lung cancer other than smoking? We get to the bottom of this with Geoffrey Oxnard, MD, a medical oncologist at Dana-Farber’s Lowe Center for Thoracic Oncology.

    Episode 4: Is Cancer Contagious?

    A cancer diagnosis can inspire many questions, one of the most common being, "How did I get this disease?" There are a host of different causes, and in many cases, researchers do not have a definitive answer. But is it possible for cancer to spread from person to person? We tackle these questions with the help of Ann S. LaCasce, MD, MMSc, director of the Dana-Farber/Partners Cancer Care Hematology-Medical Oncology Fellowship Program.

    Episode 5: Cancer Clinical Trials

    Clinical trials are scientific studies in which new treatments are testing to determine if they are safe and effective for patients. But what does it mean for a patient to enroll in a clinical trial? We break down common myths and questions about how these trials work with the help of Geoffrey Shapiro, MD, PhD, director of the Early Drug Development Center at Dana-Farber.

    Episode 6: Is Palliative Care Only for End-of-Life Patients?

    Palliative care is an often misunderstood specialty, focused on providing support and pain management strategies to cancer patients throughout all stages of their illness. This approach, which can be blended into curative cancer therapy, focuses on care for the whole person: mind, body, and spirit. But is it only for patients at end-of-life? And how does it differ from hospice care? In this episode, we explore common misconceptions and dive into how palliative care really works with James Tulsky, MD, chair of Psychosocial Oncology and Palliative Care at Dana-Farber.

    Episode 7: Superfoods and Cancer

    What is a superfood? And can it really fight cancer? Dana-Farber nutritionist Stacy Kennedy, sorts through the truth and the hype around superfoods and their purported healing powers, and looks at the more general topic of what we should and shouldn't eat to help lower cancer risk.

    Episode 8: Brain Tumor Myths

    Brain tumors are some of the most complex types of cancers that exist, requiring a multidisciplinary team of many specialists. With the help of Ugonma Chukwueke, MD, a medical oncologist in the Center for Neuro-Oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, we break down some of the most common myths and misconceptions about brain tumors — whether you're looking for information on how they start, what their signs and symptoms are, or how they're treated.

    Episode 9: What to Know About Marijuana

    Where does marijuana come into play when it comes to treating cancer? And can it help patients manage cancer? We dive into these questions, and other common questions, myths, and misconceptions about marijuana and cancer, with Ilana Braun, MD, chief of Adult Psychosocial Oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

    Episode 10: Leukemia Myths

    Leukemia, a type of blood cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow, is one of the most well-known types of cancer. Still, there are many different myths and misconceptions floating around about this cancer, which we address in this episode with the help of Daniel DeAngelo, MD, PhD, director of clinical and translational research for the Adult Leukemia Program at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

    Episode 11: Breast Cancer Risk

    Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in women. One fact we know is that early detection of breast cancer can often make the disease easier to treat, and in some cases, easier to cure. So what are some fast facts that everyone should know about breast cancer risk, and what are some common myths and misconceptions that just aren’t true? In this episode, we’ll tell you what you need to know with the help of two Dana-Farber experts: Brittany Bychkovsky, MD, MSc, and cancer genetic counselor Jill Stopfer, MS, LGC.

    Episode 12: Prostate Cancer Myths

    Prostate cancer is a disease in which cancer forms in the prostate, a gland located just below the bladder and in front of the rectum in males. In the United States, a man has a one in five chance of being diagnosed with this disease in his lifetime. But there are still a lot of myths and misconceptions surrounding prostate cancer, including how it's detected and how it's managed and treated. With the help of Mark Pomerantz, MD, a medical oncologist in the Genitourinary Cancer Treatment Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, we'll go over some of those common myths and talk about the latest treatment options for prostate cancer.

    Episode 13: Early Cancer Detection and Risk

    Researchers are constantly trying to pinpoint ways to find cancer in its early stages, when it is often more treatable and even curable. Incredible advancements have been made in early detection in recent years, but it can still be hard to sift through all the facts and false information to figure out what you need to know. Today, we'll address some common myths, misconceptions, and questions about early detection of cancer with two Dana-Farber experts: Brittany Bychkovsky, MD, MSc, and cancer genetic counselor Jill Stopfer, MS, LGC.

    Episode 14: Chemotherapy Myths and Misconceptions

    Chemotherapy has long been a mainstay of cancer treatment. Today, in the era of precision cancer medicine, there are newer treatments and chemotherapy that can "target" cancer cells more specifically. Researchers have also discovered the effectiveness of using chemotherapy drugs in conjunction with other drugs to pack a more powerful punch. To put it simply: Chemo is a lot better today than it used to be. Still, there's a lot of misinformation surrounding this kind of cancer treatment. In this episode, we explore some of the most common myths and misconceptions with Clare Sullivan, MPH, BSN, OCN, clinical program manager for Patient Education at Dana-Farber.

    Episode 15: Alternative Therapies and Integrative Therapies

    The search for new and better cancer treatments has resulted in some incredible discoveries in recent years — however, not all patients respond to these new treatments. Cancer treatments also often lead to side effects that may last for months to years after treatment. Given this, many cancer patients turn to alternative or complimentary therapies as potential cancer treatments or as ways to alleviate side effects. In this episode, we explore the evidence behind the use of alternative therapies in patients with cancer with Jennifer Ligibel, MD, director of the Leonard P. Zakim Center for Integrative Therapies and Healthy Living. We also talk about the power of integrative therapies, which cancer patients can use enhance their quality of life during and after cancer treatment.

    Episode 16: The Myth That Cancer Is a 'Battle'

    We hear it all the time: Cancer is a battle, and patients have to fight in order to increase their chances of a good outcome. It’s a common message used in the media, the premise being that a person's cancer can be eradicated if they are tough enough. But does this put the burden of healing on patients by turning them into winners and losers? In this episode, we examine these question and more — plus some strategies for how patients, caregivers, and survivors can deal with mental health issues and emotional stress that can result from cancer treatment and survivorship — with Bill F. Pirl, MD, MPH, vice chair of Psychosocial Oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.