5 Ridiculous Medical Myths You Probably Believe

#2. You Shouldn't Let Someone Who's Had a Concussion Fall Asleep

What You've Heard

There are a few things most people know about concussions. First, when they wave a little flashlight pen in your eyes, they do something differently. Second, you might get a little sick to your stomach. If your second set of eyelids don't blink correctly and you get hit in the head so hard that your stomach gets upset, that adds up to the biggest, most important thing we all know about concussions: If you go to sleep with one, you don't wake up. That's why when Dwight smacked his head in The Office, Jim had to keep him awake by spraying him in the face with a water-filled Windex bottle. It's also why doctors have to try and evaluate the mental health of a screaming toddler because his mom kept him up for 26 hours straight after he smacked his head trying to walk down the stairs with his diaper around his ankles.

"Ah, I see the problem. This child's mother is a complete goddamn idiot."

The Reality

Concussions happen when your brain smacks against the inside of your skull. It's a pretty violent injury, and symptoms can show up immediately or weeks later. One of the primary symptoms of a concussion is fatigue. This is not your body's way of playing a cruel trick on you. Your body is experiencing fatigue in order to tell you that your brain needs rest. Rest is, in fact, one of the best possible ways to treat a concussion.

And, by that logic, concussions are one of the best ways to get your kid to sleep.

Nothing about a concussion interferes with your ability to sleep or wake up. If you know someone who banged her head and wants to take a nap, you are not helping matters and in fact are most likely making her much, much worse by keeping her awake. Presumably, this myth was started by people who are unable to differentiate between victims of head trauma and people who are black-out drunk, aka other people who are black-out drunk. The symptoms are all about the same: nausea, exhaustion and an inability to put a coherent sentence together.

But in reality, your concussed friend needs immediate medical attention, and if she's completely incoherent, your black-out drunk friend probably needs medical attention, too, or at least some Taco Bell.

And you can witness that flu/gastroenteritis thing firsthand.

#1. Cancer Is One Disease

What You've Heard

Google "cure for cancer." Go ahead. We'll wait. If you did it right, you'll notice that the media likes to claim that a "cure" for cancer has been found. If you prefer to get your medical insight from Outkast, you might remember when Andre 3000 rapped about the need for a "cure for cancer, cure for AIDS" in "Bombs Over Baghdad." While Andre doesn't have the medical authority of fellow rap luminary Dr. Dre, nothing seems strange about that line. Cancer and AIDS are the two most high-profile killers of our era, and medical science has taught us that if we live long enough, we'll see them both eradicated like polio.

The Reality

The idea that cancer can be cured rests on the assumption that cancer is a single disease. Most of us recognize that lung cancer is not the same as breast cancer simply because they're both in the chest, but the fact that they're both cancer seems to suggest that they're at least the same type of disease. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Which is why Andre 3000's dream of finding a single "cure for cancer" is actually impossible.

He hasn't been this disappointed since Polaroid cameras were adopted by hipsters.

This is yet another potentially deadly issue of semantics. The term "cancer" refers to over 200 completely different diseases. There are basic similarities among them and how they attack your body. They're certainly more similar to each other than they are to causes of death like heart attack or getting hit by a car. But the more we learn about cancer, the more we realize that they are, for all practical purposes, completely different diseases that require different treatments.

"See, for skin cancer, we just sigh and tilt our heads. For lung cancer, we get out the sympathetic hand puppets."

It's obvious why the people working on cancer research make it seem like it's possible to find the cancer equivalent of the polio vaccine. Funding is necessary to explore any treatment option. If they were honest and said that "Researchers May Have Discovered a Possible Lead in the Fight Against a Rare Form of Pancreatic Cancer, and It'll Be Years Before We Find Out if It Works or Not," then nobody would be very interested. "A CURE FOR CANCER HAS BEEN FOUND" is clearly the more effective attention grabber.


To see why this can be deadly, imagine two ads: one for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and one for the Cancer Fund of America. "Why just help out with one type of cancer, when I can help out all cancers?" you say, donating to the latter. What you don't know is that the former has an A+ Charity Watch rating, while the latter has an F. But the fact that there are so many charities out there organizing races for "The Cure" would suggest that the war on cancer is being funded by people whose understanding of advertising surpasses their understanding of what's actually at stake.

And some cancers hog all the publicity.

For more bullshit you probably believe, check out Your Mom Lied: 5 Common Body Myths Debunked and 6 Lies About the Human Body You Learned in Kindergarten.

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