The Importance of Dispelling Myths in Healthcare

Medicine and healthcare is a natural home for myths and myth-making. Long before there were attempts at understanding the science of the body and disease, and before evidence-based medicine became fashionable medicine was based on anecdote, folklore and myth.

Medical myths are not a thing of the past, indeed new myths, like ‘vaccines cause autism’, are emerging all the time. A typical consultation with one of my cancer patients can primarily be spent trying to dispel myths like ‘not eating sugar will starve the cancer of energy’ or ‘surgery lets the air in and spreads the cancer’. Whilst many myths are mostly harmless some are very dangerous. I’ve had patients decline curative treatment and adhere to mythical beliefs. Potentially fatal childhoods are seen a resurgence due to myths around vaccination.

One of the roles of physicians is to be vigilant for myths and to dispel them whenever possible. Sometimes you will be surprised about what you thought was fact is actually a myth.

The following are some links for further reading:

BMJ Medical Myths

Cancer Myths

Myths, Presumptions & Facts About Obesity

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