Myths drive me bonkers.

Was just thinking.If it isn’t bad enough living with cancer ,what drives me bonkers is reading the myths that we could could all well do without,surrounding why we may have got it…it just causes and instills unneccesary guilt,(though not in me i have to say)…I dont know why I got breast cancer ,I just got it,but it certainly wasnt my doing in any way shape or form…it just happened,bad luck but not bad anything I did,off for a huge bar of chocolate and a chilled white wine,the best thing going in my book,and I aint worried that I may get a recurrence because of that or anything else,if it comes back it comes back and thats that,nothing I can do about it…wondered what your views were?..Longy.

Well. Mmm. I’m afraid I don’t share some of your views on this. Some things are myths - some aren’t.

I have hit this thing as hard as I can with surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. They have taken away my ovaries and I am on Arimidex to try and keep the b*gger at bay. I am not drinking alcohol anymore(link to increased bc risk is proven) and I am exercising at last 30 minutes 5 times a week (proven to reduce risk of recurrence) and I am keeping my BMI low (also proven to reduce risk).
I don’t want to die of this disease. I have seen too many people I loved die of it. It may still get me in the end - but I am not going without a fight.

The major risk factors for BC - i.e being female, starting periods early - were out of my control. So if I can control something which has a proven connection to breast cancer risk why would I bury my head in the sand over it? This isn’t about me anyway, it is about my 2 year old son. I owe it to him to do whatever I can to stay around as long as I can. I can’t be fatalistic about it.

Yes there is evidence about links between a healthy diet and breast cancer prevention but these are by no mean straightforward or conclusive. As far as recurrence is concerened there may be some reduction in recurrence rates for early breast cancer (ie cancer found at Stages 1 and 2, but not stage 3). Interestingly the biggest difference a low fat diet and exercise made in one suirvey was in er and pr negative tumours, not as was expected in er and pr+ tumours.

I agree with longy that calls to change diet can be done in a less than helpful guilt inducing way which does women no favours.

Personally I am irritated when I read or hear of people determined to ‘fight’ cancer…it’s as though they imply that others simply lie down and let cancer take them. None of the many terminally ill women I know want to die but we know we will.

I understand why people want to feel control over something which feels like it is deperately out of control, but loathe the moral presciptions which go along with this.


hi longy,
In my case i was told by BC nurse that there was nothing i could’ve done differently that would have prevented this from happening to me. I’m 35, no family history, veggie - eat loadsa tofu/broccoli, fit - exercise 45 mins every day. I did ask if it was because i smoke and drink but then so do the majority of my friends who vary in age from 22-50 - but was told it was just one of them things. Thats not to say i won’t be trying to prevent this happening again - i’m trying to stop smoking (been battling with it for years!) and have cut down drinking to 1/week - if for nothing else other than i need my strength for chemo and want to be around to see my son grow up, get married etc. But i don’t want this thing to rule my life and still want to enjoy every moment (in moderation as my BC nurse advises!).
Both my dad and my friends dad died suddenly of heart attacks in their 50’s - both fit men, didn’t smoke or drink (except xmas/birthdays!!)yet my sons dad who’s an alcohol advisor treats people in their 60’s/70’s who drink a litre of vodka a day and are still going strong…you just don’t know!
Its a personal choice how we live our lives, though of course i’ll except advice, guidance and the odd green tea (yuk!) to try and prolong (and enjoy) it as much as possible!

Hi longy,
I cringe every time I see a newspaper article about the link between alcohol and cancer,or lack of vegetables,or smoking,because I know that many people around me will be thinking “oh that’s why she got cancer then ,she’s a secret drinker,or doesn’t eat a healthy diet”
these insights can help us live healthily but the articles are often misunderstood by people who jump to conclusions about them .
Of course the reason people do this is to protect themselves ,they think,I don’t do that so I can’t get’s just a way for them to find a false sense of security,unfortunate for those of us who have got cancer,as they want to blame us
I was overweight,but quite fit and strong,never smoked,drank alcohol about twice a year,breastfed all my babies(four)didn’t take dairy products,took the pill for a total of four months,but when a new nurse interviews me she always tries to find the reason why I developed cancer,as if it is some guilty secret

Did all those things MsMolly. Still came back. Not trying to put you off as I know it can make you feel better, thinking that you are in control of something.

When I developed secondaries (over 8 years later ) I beat myself up about the fact that I had let myself slip. That I had allowed myself treats.

My onc gave me a wholehearted assurance that nothing i Had done had caused my secondaries.

Think what I am trying to say, is do whatever helps in order to feel in control and healthy. However do not deprive yourself of life affirming treats.

My need to battle this thing or fight it in no way implies that women who die of it are less gutsy or determined and somehow bring their death upon themselves. What rubbish - and I find the implication offensive.
This is my health, my life, my body and I really couldn’t care less if my attitude irritates others or not.
The only way I can sleep at night is to try my utmost and try to empower myself because I am a single parent with a toddler and the future terrifies me.
Each of us has our own way of dealing with this thing. There are no rights or wrongs.

Not in agreement about the low fat diet only helping triple neg. There is a clear relationship between adipose tissue, aromatase production and ER+ women. It makes a lot of sense if you are ER+ to reduce your fat intake, lose weight and keep your BMI low. Yes the cancer may still comeback - but at least you are at a healthier starting point to deal with the treatment. And who knows - if it doesn’t actually save your life, it may prolong it.

Hi msmolly:

The research I referred to was a study in the US called the Womens Intervention Nutrition Study. It was a study of recurrence in post menopausal women and did find more benefits in a low fat diet for er- and pr-. This was a surprise to the researchers. See this link:

Secondly I think that using the language of ‘fighting’ cancer does send out messages which imply that those who die somehow did not fight enough. There are many critiques about this and I agree with them. At one level how individuals behave in the light of a cancer diagnosis is an indivdual choice, but the kind of choice which is, I believe, heavily determined by prevailing myths about cancer.

It’s good to disagree sometimes!


I think both jane and molly have fantastic, if differing attitudes to this and its very inspiring to me.
I’m kind of a ‘go with the flow, what will be will be’ kinda gal. I pick the bits i like to beleive and choose to ignore the parts that don’t quite sit with me. I found an article in the times:
“doing housework can significantly reduce a womans chance of developing breast cancer” (part funded by cancer research uk). Now THATS the reason i got cancer! I’m quite proud of how non-house proud i am… when i’m not working i prefer to spend my time out on my bike, camping with my son, or in the pub with my mates (saturdays only now!). So if anyone asks why i got it i can just say “due to a lack of dusting, ironing and hoovering i think!”
Just thought i’d lighten the mood a bit there! Though it does nark me a little that money is wasted on these studies - i HATE stereotypes!!

I am so glad this thread has been started as having similar problems with ‘myths’ at the moment. As well as the bc, treatment, menopausal stuff etc I have had depression and mood disorders most of my adult life. This has come back again and is making me feel terrible at the moment so if I go on too much ignore it! The arimidex supressing oestrogen is the main culprit and my medication i take for my mental health problems no longer works. My gp has referred me back to the mental health team to see if anything can be done.So myths about bc are making me boil at the mo. It is though fingers are being pointed that because I did this or that I got bc especially from people who have no experience of bc. It is especially heart breaking after the recent deaths of dippy kate and Jodie from STARS. Did they die because because of something they did wrong (diet etc) I don’t think so and would be offensive to think such a thing. I know people need something to ‘blame’ for bc but sometimes it happens for no reason known (yet). Maybe the future may bring more information. If i die of bc, it won’t be because I ‘lost my fight’ with it, it will be because the disease killed me. Oh yes that gym I used to belong to rang me about why I hadn’t been going. I then asked about the nutritionist and said that she had been saying stuff about sugar giving you cancer and that this was not true. The woman on the phone got very defensive and siad that was not what was said but that sugar’lowered your immune system’. Never heard of it and do not think it is true either. Rant over. Thank you for reading.

Rachy xxx

Interesting discussion. I hate all this blame stuff because we simply don’t have enough answers. There are many different types of bc so I’m very wary of simplistic ideas as to cause.

Interestingly enough during a recent conversation with a close friend of mine who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 22 years ago, similar issues arose. This friend has spent just over 21 years blaming herself because she believed that dieting in her 20s caused it. Her brother was diagnosed with MS a few months ago - for the first time my friend can alleviate herself of this ridiculous guilt because clearly diet had nothing to do with it for her. Isn’t that awful?

There are many theories out there regards the causes of bc - until something definitive comes up about hormone related cancers (my type of bc) I’ll withold my judgement as to how or why I got it.


There is no doubt there are myths and unsubstantiated or poor quality research surrounding breast cancer and many other diseases and conditions for that matter and you should take them with a pinch of salt. However, there is also lots of strong evidence on what may cause cancer and what may help to reduce the risk. However, as with any evidence, there is no reason why you should feel guilty if you chose to either ignore it completely or tailor the advice to suit you. As with conditions such as heart disease, for example, aside from the genetic predisposition for heart disease, the evidence is clear and very well known that keeping within normal weight limits, exercise, no smoking etc is going to help reduce the risk of developing heart disease. So why is there still so much heart disease? Not because people are ignorant of the facts of how to reduce the risk but because for whatever reason they are unwilling or unable to lose weight/do more exercise/quit smoking etc etc for a myriad of reasons. And no-one has the right ever to judge someone who chooses to live their life their own way. Likewise, no-one should ever criticise anyone who chooses to adopt a healthy lifestyle in the hopes that they can do something to reduce their risks however small or futile it may be.


I, like earlier postings, hate the way that the modern implication is that we brought it on ourselves by not eating well, drinking too much, having babies too/not having them at all and exercising too little. I cant help feeling that in a few years, breast cancer will be treated similarly to lung cancer and smoking by the media.

Its interesting that when and i and other friends/acquaintances were diagnosed and asked the question ‘what did i do?’ The medical professionals all assured us that it was random and nothing we could do could have prevented it.

I personally dislike using the word fight but prefer to be thought of as a good patient following sensible instructions/guidelines wherever possible. Since diagnosis, i have trawled books and websites extensively for ways to improve my chances of not developing secondaries. There are no guarantees and i know that but i am of the mind if it doesnt hurt/make it worse then why not try it. For example, many American oncologists prescribe vitd for their patients in the theory that we in the western world do not get enough through sunlight. Worth a shot? I am considering it but still need to do a bit more research on it first.

I feel we all need to get some control of our lives back in whatever way we can and feel that we are doing something. I think for our self esteem, that has to be a good thing but we also need to realise that life isnt always fair and our worst fears could come true. This is not negative thinking in my book just realism.

I will continue as i did before to eat plenty of fruit and veg although i do need to lose some weight. I will resume exercising properly when my chemo fatigue has subsided. I dont know if or when i will drink alchohol again as chemo has turned me off it.

All the best

At the time of dx my youngest son was 21 months and my bcn said straight away that my cancer was probably caused by that pregnancy.

After sugery I found out I was 8/8 for both hormones, so does that mean it was my 2nd pregnancy that caused it…?

Hi Ladies, interesting discussion. I too hate the term fighting cancer, it’s a load of c…!!! Nobody wants to die and we all cope in different ways. I think people generally are so judgemental particularly around diseases. We should be doing, this, that or the other.
Personally we have to as individuals find our own ways of coping with this disease, be it looking at diet,exercising,hiding our heads in the sand, or getting drunk regularly! I think we have to give up the guilt too!!1

It is very interesting how the word “fighting” when applied to cancer is so irritating. Personally, I don’t find it at all irritating because I believe (and I apologise if I am wrong) that when someone says they are “fighting” their cancer, they don’t mean it literally but perhaps they are just saying that they are going to make an effort to do something, whether its physical, psycholigical, spritual etc to help them cope or contend with their illness.

I can honestly say I did nothing physical, psychological or spiritual when diagnosed with breast cancer and I don’t believe it made the slightest difference. The biology of my tumour happened to be as it was so I have a good prognosis.

Breast cancer is a disease in which one cell loses the normal characteristics which lead to cell death so cells keeps on doubling and doubling and these break off and go off to other parts of the body. No amount of physical jerks or positive thinking is going to influence this process. No will fighting whatever that is.

That’s my view anyway.

I’ve had two magnum ice creams today, that’s the extent of my healthy eating, although I have biked 8 miles to and from work

Two magnums sounds good to me. The bike ride doesn’t as I am the laziest person on Earth. I haven’t done anything either in order to make myself more healthy. On the contrary, I think that I drink more, eat more and generally moan a lot more too.

i can honestly say i AM LITERALLY ‘fighting’ cancer! I do kickboxing (or did until this happened and can’t do sparring anymore) Now i have to content myself with puching and kicking the c**p out of my kickpads, so to make a point i wrote ‘cancer’ on my punchbag (just above the name of my ex!)- works wonders!!!

Well my triple neg cancer is probably my fault:(I was and am overweight,tried to breast feed both kids and failed[cysts on milk ducts-hmmmmm]I like chocolate and cake and chips though not on the same plate and I dont have them every day[chips maybe 6 times a year]
I used to walk a lot but first taxotere and then a fractured knee means I am both slow and limited,I cant swim well.I cant bring myself to read Janes article because it will make me feel even guiltier.It sounds like all I can do is sit here with my chocolate and wait for the inevitable.[Ironically I have never smoked and rarely drink].