From the idea that some companies are holding back the cure to all cancers to cancer is contagious, there are many myths about cancer.
When my husband had cancer, we received an endless stream of information on treating his cancer based on common misconceptions about cancer.
Here are four common misconceptions about cancer. (There are so many more that I will do a follow-up piece!)
1. If my employee has cancer, they will not be able to work.
Cancer is no longer a death sentence. In fact, a study done in New Zealand found that about 67% of employees diagnosed with cancer continue to work while receiving treatment. In the US, the number hovers around 50%.
This is the number one misconception I hear from managers. Now some employees cannot work and receive treatment, but you will never know if you’re employee is one of those unless they reveal it to you.
The tip here is to not assume.
2. Cancer is one disease.
Cancer is a small word that covers more than 200 types of diseases. Cancer is malignant cells that can spread to other body organs and destroy or disturb functions. You can get cancer in your bones, ligaments, soft body tissue, and organs.
Because there are more than 200 types, there are a plethora of ways to treat cancer. All this to say, your employee may not lose their hair. That all depends on the type of treatment their cancer requires.
3. Cancer causes hair loss.
False! Cancer does not cause hair loss. The type of treatment an employee with cancer receives causes hair loss. And if the employee is not receiving the kind of chemo or radiation that causes hair loss, they won’t lose their hair.
This reminds me of a phrase NOT say to anyone with cancer who hasn’t lost their hair.
“But you don’t look sick!”
4. A positive attitude is all that is needed to treat cancer.
This one makes my blood boil!
If a positive attitude was all you needed, many, many more people would be cancer-free. I am a firm believer in the power of your mental state affects your body. If you need evidence, just look at what stress does to your body over time.
But a positive attitude is not all you need, and a positive attitude will not fix everything. In fact, if it turns into toxic positivity, it could make having cancer more difficult.
Having a positive attitude helps cancer patients get through and tolerate therapies better. But a positive attitude alone cannot cure cancer.
There is a lot more to be said here. For now, please don’t say to a coworker or an employee with cancer, “Stay positive!” It belittles their experience.
However, maybe say, “Positive daily affirmations help me. Do you want to say some together every day for the next two weeks?” That is a powerful way to show up and help an employee or coworker stay positive. Helping is an action, mostly not in the saying.
As complex as cancer is, its effect on your team can be equally complex. I hope that this piece helped you understand just a little bit more about cancer. Like everything, a deeper understanding can help you support your employee with cancer and your team in a more meaningful way
You matter, so having the correct information is important!
Is there a misconception about cancer that gets your goat? Leave a comment! I’d love to know what it is.