Many people believe cancer is incurable, quite a few think it is contagious and many others feel it can be caused by hair-dyes and anti-perspirants.
Myths like these expose our little knowledge about the much-feared disease which, if addressed timely, can be cured, doctors say.
According to health experts, many myths are associated with cancer, but adapting a healthy lifestyle can help people keep it at bay. India has more than three million cancer patients, and these figures paint a pale picture of our understanding of the disease.
One of the biggest myths about cancer, according to Rajeev Kumar, senior consultant oncologist, Rockland Hospital, Qutab Institutional Area, is that cancer is incurable.
"Rather, cancer is the most curable of all chronic diseases," Kumar told IANS.
"One can never cure diabetes or hypertension, but cancer, if detected early and treated well, can be cured," Kumar added.
Agreed Preeti Jain, consultant oncology surgeon, Columbia Asia Hospital, who said that people with cancer can live "happier lives" if detected early.
"Neither is it true that surgery increases the risk of cancer," Jain said, adding that surgeries rather help combat the disease.
Explaining the reasons behind the lack of awareness related to cancer, Manish Singhal, senior consultant medical oncology, IOSPL at Fortis Hospital, Noida, said that it is because people believe in self-medication.
"Such misconceptions prevail despite information being available, because a majority of the population believes in self-medication with little or no access to complete information on the disease," Singhal told IANS.
Jain added that lack of information can be attributed to cancer being a mass disease.
"If we penetrate India geographically, we will find that many people are still unaware about the disease. They know that cancer is a disease; but its type or detection, is not known to many," she said.
Singhal further said that neither is cancer hereditary or contagious, nor is caused by hair dyes and anti-perspirants.
"Only in five to 10 percent of cases, cancers are hereditary. But the most common symptoms of cancer are caused by genetic changes that occur throughout a person's lifetime," he said.
Singhal added that such changes are caused by tobacco use, too much ultraviolet radiation and exposure to certain chemicals.
Another myth, according to experts, is that women fear one of the causes of breast cancer are "underwire brassieres", though there is no substantial evidence to
support this theory.
Suggesting a comprehensive campaign to help raise awareness, Kumar said that apart from the media, doctors and health workers should also participate.
"Cancer survivors are probably the best source of spreading awareness," he said.
According to Singhal, diligently following eight norms, including maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, protecting oneself from the sun and getting screening tests done, can help lower one's risk of cancer.
"Diet can also influence some cancers. Cancers of the stomach, bowel, lung, prostate and uterus are more likely to develop if your diet is high in fat and low in fruit, vegetables and fibre," Singhal told IANS.