Cancer Conspiracies

"People are stupid. They will believe a lie because they want to believe it's true, or because they are afraid it might be true." --Terry Goodkind, Wizards First Rule

When I got diagnosed, everyone wanted to know (or tell me) the cause of my cancer. Everyone but the doctors who were treating me. The research into cancer causes is still in its infancy, and it's a HUGE job, both because there are thousands of different types of cancer and what looks like dozens of contributing causes. Does genetics cause cancer? Sometimes the answer is DEFINITELY YES, and sometimes the answer is maybe. Did deodorant or my phone or my bra cause my breast cancer? Probably not, but the jury is still out on all the contributing factors, which can make it difficult to say for CERTAIN that we know what DOESN'T cause cancer, and these uncertainties provide ample room for all sorts of stories about cancer causes. My doctors were all much more concerned with dealing with treating my cancer NOW than following me down the rabbit whole of what gave me cancer in the first place.

But I can't help but think how to prevent cancer in my future, so I have to look at causes. That's a very human need: the desire for answers when there is no answer available. We will CREATE an answer that feels true, even when we know we DON"T know. We want someone to blame, and we want a clear path forward. That level of clarity isn't available for much of life's questions, so it's no surprise that we don't have all the answers on something as complex as cancer. Do hospitals and doctors know everything? Of course not, and the vast majority of doctors will talk about the distressing gaps in knowledge. You as a patient feel this ambiguity viscerally because your life depends on the doctors knowing things, so the reality that they don't know can be terrifying.

Conspiracies prey on our insecurities, our emotions, our fascination with secrets. Humans are curious creatures. A part of me is glad that people are looking for explanations and demanding answers, even when they end up in conspiracy-land: if we are looking for more things, we will find more things. A hundred years ago, chemo sounded crazy. Cancer treatments have been crazy through the years, and we are constantly improving our knowledge of causes and treatments by wading through all the possibilities. Even the truly batshit possibilities.

The other part of me, the ex-Mormon part of me, is very skeptical of anyone who promotes conspiracy theories. Often the "one simple trick" to cure cancer is a way to make money, while the slow slog of science is not very exciting because that knowledge comes in tiny trickles and with a lot of fine print. I found a great article from 1911 on Cancer, Credulity, and Quackery

"The moral of all the familiarity with cancer and all the quackery associated with the exploitation of those sufferers who would fain find an alternative to the knife is simply this. A secret remedy for cancer is possessed by no man nor woman. If it existed, its success would speedily cause all human endeavour to concentrate upon its divulgence, and no quack could retain it for himself alone. That form of treatment which is public property namely, removal by surgery-has nothing to fear, but, on the contrary, much to gain by comparison with its only competitor, removal by caustics."

I would say that, like with anything, we need to be very cautious of believing what we hope or fear to be true. Do your own research, give more credence to facts than belief, and hold on to hope for a better future.