Sally* looks up, expectantly, biting her lip, and asks the question I know she’s been considering. “But what did I do...you know, that caused this?” I get this question regularly. I can list dozens of risk factors that increase a person’s risk of developing cancer—but I cannot tell you in a room of 100 people with those shared risk factors which 1 or which 20 of them will go on to develop cancer. I also cannot tell you why there are always those with no risk factors who still develop cancer.
So many of my patients dread this question and the inevitable answer. They have spent days or weeks working up the courage to ask, berating themselves for the choices they made that “caused” their cancer. They have sometimes made dramatic changes based on internet searches—no more food with soy, no more soda, no more sugar, no more stress. I have seen patients apologize to children and spouses for “creating this situation.” They have added the burden of blame to the burden of cancer. I have seen patients spiral into a cycle of shame and blame. If I know anything, I know that no one choses cancer. Read more at ASCO connection