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Curing Cancerphobia

How Risk, Fear, and Worry Mislead Us

David Ropeik

Publication Date
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Our fear of cancer causes great harm to individual health and to society.

The fear of cancer is understandable. But that fear is in some ways outdated, as it fails to account for the medical progress made against this family of diseases. In Curing Cancerphobia, David Ropeik reveals the fascinating historical and psychological roots of our fear of cancer and documents the dramatic health and financial harms caused when that fear exceeds the risk.

Fear of cancer drives millions for whom screening is not recommended to screen for the disease anyway, producing tens of thousands of emotionally...

Our fear of cancer causes great harm to individual health and to society.

The fear of cancer is understandable. But that fear is in some ways outdated, as it fails to account for the medical progress made against this family of diseases. In Curing Cancerphobia, David Ropeik reveals the fascinating historical and psychological roots of our fear of cancer and documents the dramatic health and financial harms caused when that fear exceeds the risk.

Fear of cancer drives millions for whom screening is not recommended to screen for the disease anyway, producing tens of thousands of emotionally damaging false positives and costing the US health care system an estimated $9.2 billion a year. At the same time, fear of cancer also causes many people for whom screening is recommended to avoid it altogether.

Modern screening technologies often identify cancers that do not spread or that grow so slowly they almost certainly will never cause harm in a person's lifetime. Yet many of these people, frightened by the word "cancer" in their diagnosis, understandably choose more aggressive and risky treatments than their clinical conditions require. These unnecessary treatments kill hundreds of people, cause severe side effects in thousands, and cost the health care system at least $5.2 billion a year.

Additionally, consumers spend billions of dollars on vitamins and supplements, organic food, and other products that promise to reduce our risk of cancer but do not actually reduce it. And an excessive fear of cancer causes resistance to potentially beneficial technologies like nuclear power and fluoridation of tap water. After documenting these harms, Ropeik offers tools and suggestions to help reduce the negative impacts of cancerphobia. Based on extensive research including interviews with experts and cancer patients, Curing Cancerphobia confronts our emotional relationship with the disease we fear more than any other.

Reviews

Reviews

As an oncologist and caregiver of a spouse with cancer, I felt very close to the issues raised and the coverage of the subject matter. I hope that this book will reach a broad audience to stimulate an open discussion on this topic.

In a highly engaging exposition of the emperor of nosophobias, Ropeik details how the gravity force of cancerphobia warps risk perception, leading to personal or societal harms and legislative misdirection. He provides tools to avoid fear-dominated fast thinking and to employ slow thinking techniques to reach the goal of informed health decisions by patients, health care professionals, and policy makers.

In his timely and important book, David Ropeik shines a bright light on how misperceptions about cancer risks can lead to large costs to individuals and society. Ropeik has done the research and knows how to tell a compelling story. Curing Cancerphobia illustrates how the medical and public health communities can combat the problem and how all of us can make more informed everyday decisions.

Cancer more so than any other disease induces fear. Often this leads to rash and irrational actions regarding screening and treatment. In simple English, David Ropeik explains the need for every patient to calmly and rationally research and understand the diseases known as cancer and how our understanding of them and their varying biologic behavior has evolved.

Will a single cancer cell inevitably multiply until it kills us or we kill it first? In this lively and engaging book, health risk expert David Ropeik helps us understand our fear of cancer and how we can—individually and collectively—overcome the many harms done by this fear. 

About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
392
ISBN
9781421447407
Illustration Description
3 halftones, 18 line drawings
Table of Contents

Introduction
Part One. The Origins of Our Fear of Cancer
Chapter 1. The Historical Roots
Chapter 2. The Psychological Roots
Part Two. The Costs to Individuals
Chapter 3. Overscreening, Overdiagnosis

Introduction
Part One. The Origins of Our Fear of Cancer
Chapter 1. The Historical Roots
Chapter 2. The Psychological Roots
Part Two. The Costs to Individuals
Chapter 3. Overscreening, Overdiagnosis, Overtreatment: An Overview
Chapter 4. Breast Cancer: When Worry Causes Us to Do Too Much
Chapter 5. Prostate Cancer: When Worry Causes Us to Do Too Much
Chapter 6. Thyroid Cancer: When Worry Causes Us to Do Too Much
Chapter 7. Lung Cancer: When Worry Causes Us to Do Too Much
Chapter 8. Colorectal Cancer: When Worry Causes Us to Do Too Much
Chapter 9. Underscreening: When Fear Scares Us Out of Doing Enough
Chapter 10. Delayed Diagnosis: When Fear Scares Us Out of Doing Enough
Part Three. The Costs to Society
Chapter 11. The Stunning Economic Cost of Our Sometimes Excessive Fear of Cancer
Chapter 12. Environmentalism's Contribution to Our Fear of Cancer
Chapter 13. Other Societal Impacts of Our Fear of Cancer
Part Four. Reducing the Costs
Chapter 14. Combating Cancerphobia
Chapter 15. Combating Cancerphobia in Yourself
Acknowledgments
Notes
Index

Author Bio
David Ropeik
Featured Contributor

David Ropeik

David Ropeik (BOSTON, MA) is a retired instructor who taught at Harvard University and the author of How Risky Is It, Really? Why Our Fears Don’t Always Match the Facts. He was formerly an award-winning broadcast journalist in Boston, a science columnist for the Boston Globe, a board member of the Society of Environmental Journalists, and a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at the Massachusetts...