Advertisement

The nurse hired to combat cancer myths online

From BBC - October 29, 2017

A cancer charity has appointed a digital nurse to combat "fake news" online, which they say leaves patients "scared and at risk of bogus cures".

Macmillan Cancer Support found two-fifths of people with cancer looked up information about their diagnosis on the internet.

One in eight of those went online because they did not fully understand what their doctor had told them.

Glaswegian nurse Ellen McPake, who landed the job, says she wants to correct the misinformation that exists.

She said: "Once the doctor says 'cancer', people automatically then shut down and they do not take in the information that they are given.

"So they go home, speak to the family. And then they will sit online that night and get themselves in a frenzy with what they are reading."

She says people focus on the worst-case scenario: "There's quite a lot of myths out there," she said.

Here are some of them:

Sodium bicarbonate can cure cancer

"Some people think that drinking it or taking it intravenously can cure cancer. There is not any evidence to support that," she said.

Working on Macmillan's support line, Ellen said people would report trying it because it seemed less harsh than chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

"For some people it can be quite dangerous - it affects their kidneys and makes them feel quite unwell," she said.

Sugar gives you cancer

Ellen said some patients misguidedly think sugar causes cancer. While obesity has been linked to cancer, consumption of sugar itself does not increase risk.

Medical practice the Mayo Clinic writes: "Sugar does not make cancer grow faster. All cells, including cancer cells, depend on blood sugar (glucose) for energy. But giving more sugar to cancer cells does not speed their growth."

Ellen has seen patients try to eradicate sugar based on false beliefs. "There's no way you can take sugar out of your diet completely," she said.

Vitamin C cures cancer

Ellen said: "I had a call once where a couple had been to a clinic and paid lots of money to be treated with vitamin C, which they were told could cure cancer."

Only old people get cancer

Sharks do not get cancer

Coffee enemas help

It's a modern disease

Advertisement

Continue reading at BBC »