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caregiver's comments

tiny one
Posts: 467
Joined: Jan 2009

What do you say to a caregiver who thinks drinking beer is the cause of her husband's cancer? Or that surgery will cause the cancer to spread? How do we educate people on this? I am a 3 year survivor and find it hard that someone would think this way?

lindaprocopio's picture
Posts: 2022
Joined: Oct 2008

I'd say, with a smile on my face and a gentle hand on her arm, "Oh, I don't think that's true! People who never touched alcohol in their life get cancer! Look at the innocent children that get cancer, through no fault of their own! I know that I personally didn't do ANYTHING that contributed to my cancer, and I'll bet your husband's beer didn't play any role in his getting cancer either. And surgery sure didn't cause MY cancer to spread, so please don't let that old wive's tale cause you any worry." And I'd give her a hug, offer my help (if I wanted to get involved: be careful here. HA!)

soccerfreaks's picture
Posts: 2801
Joined: Sep 2006

You don't say what kind of cancer or where it is located, so it is hard to refute the caregiver's notion with respect to alcohol. I am a head/neck and lung cancer survivor and am confident that alcohol may very well have been an agent in development of the head/neck cancer at least: 95% of head/neck cancer patients as of my diagnosis in 2005 were either smokers or smokers/drinkers.

Alcohol is a known cancer agent, in fact, so I am curious as to how cigarettes got such a bad rap (deserved) while alcohol was allowed to slide.

Even so, it is too simple to say that alcohol caused someone's cancer. The latest research on cancer causes looks to some rather intricate interweaving of genetics, environment AND behavior (such as drinking beer or sucking in rat poison, I mean nicotine) and find that any combination of the three may lead to a cancer result. The beer, that is, is not necessary, and it is likely that even if the beer is involved it is not the sole culprit.

That said, any good OncoMan would probably suggest, post-diagnosis, that the survivor cut out the drinking. Probably without expecting some of us to listen.

One reason is that continued use of a substance that tends to cultivate cancer tends to, well, cultivate cancer. That is, given a previous diagnosis of cancer potentially associated with some behavior, continued behavior of that sort is apt to cultivate more cancer, something mentioned in conjunction with a theory called 'field cancerization'.

I am highly skeptical of the notion that surgery causes cancer to spread. Most cancer survivors (including me) WISH FOR surgery because it indicates that the cancer is sufficiently localized that doctors think they can remove it outright. In many cases, the alternative is very bad news.

Following my 2005 head/neck cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatments, when cancer of the very same type showed up in my lung, I WANTED to wake up following my biopsy to find that they had removed a lung lobe!

Fortunately, that happened: yesterday OncoMan gave me an All Clear, more than two years following the lobectomy, four and a half years following the head/neck surgery.

I'll take the surgery.

To your question most directly: I suppose you could ask for authoritative evidence of these claims, or you could ignore them.

Congrats on your three years of survivorship, by the way :)!

Take care,


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