The claim: Cancer is trying to heal, not kill
Cancer is the second-leading cause of death in the United States, claiming about 600,000 lives per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But a recent social media claim has a very different take on the illness that trails only heart disease in mortality.
"Cancer is trying to heal, not kill," reads the text in a post shared to Instagram on Oct. 14. "A cancerous tumor is basically a bag the human body creates to collect toxins that are contaminating the bloodstream."
The Instagram post, liked about 100 times in the first day online, adds that biopsy, radiotherapy and chemotherapy are harmful.
But the claim is false. Cancer is a deadly disease that can disrupt vital organ function, experts say.
USA TODAY reached out to the social media user who shared the post for comment.
Cancer is dangerous to the human body
Cancer is a disease in which cells in the body abnormally and uncontrollably grow and multiply, according to Dr. Henry Park, chief of thoracic radiotherapy at Yale Medicine. These cells can then invade nearby organs and spread to other organs in the body, causing them to no longer function correctly.
"Lymph nodes are an important part of the immune system that filter toxins from the blood, and cancer cells can be among these toxins captured by the lymph nodes," Park told USA TODAY. "However, the cancer itself does not remove any toxins and gives no benefits to the body."
The post is also wrong implying all cancers involve tumors.
Cancers can form solid tumors, but cancers in the blood generally do not, according to the National Cancer Institute. Cancerous tumors can invade other tissues beyond where theyoriginated, causing new tumors to form in a process called metastasis.
Metastasis is the major cause of cancer-related deaths, according to a 2017 study published by the National Center of Biotechnology Information, part of the National Institutes of Health.
The procedures referenced in the post – biopsy, radiotherapy and chemotherapy – are actions taken to identify or alleviate the risk of cancer.
A biopsy is when doctors remove a sample of tissue from the body to analyze it, according to the Mayo Clinic. This examination can help doctors identify abnormal activity in the tissue or if the patient has cancer.
Radiotherapy and chemotherapy can have side effects but are often very effective in killing the cancer cells and preventing worsening symptoms or death, according to Park.
"Research consistently shows that patients with cancer who have refused to undergo standard-of-care treatments as recommended by their physicians are more likely to die than those who do choose to undergo these treatments," Park said.
Our rating: False
Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that cancer is trying to heal a person, not kill them. Cancer, which kills about 600,000 people each year in the U.S. alone, does not remove any toxins from the body, experts say.
Our fact-check sources:
CDC, Feb. 2, An Update on Cancer Deaths in the United States
Mayo Clinic, April 27, Cancer Overview
National Cancer Institute, accessed Oct. 15, What is cancer?
Mayo Clinic, Jan. 16, 2020, Biopsy: Types of biopsy procedures used to diagnose cancer
Mayo Clinic, July 1, 2020, Radiotherapy
Mayo Clinic, March 5, 2020, Chemotherapy
Dr. Henry Park, Oct. 15, email exchange with USA TODAY
National Center of Biotechnology Information, April 3, 2017, Cancer metastasis: issues and challenges
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Cancer does not remove toxins from the body