Giving Up Cancer for Lent: On the right track…

Today I decided to investigate the medical side of this journey. I saw my family doctor this morning and I learned one very important thing. I am apparently on the right track. It was nice to hear. You can’t measure the impact of lifestyle changes when it comes to cancer, at least at the individual level, so knowing my doctor thinks the changes are the right ones is reassuring.

Her advice boiled down to much of what we have already talked about:

  • Diet: Avoid processed or prepared foods. The preservatives that can be carcinogenic. She mentioned things like prepared frozen and boxed foods. The more chemicals it contains, the more likely it is to be bad for you.
  • Exercise: She is a big proponent of physical activity as part of a healthy life.
  • Organic foods: She suggests avoiding pesticides as a big part of staying cancer free. Here in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia we have better access to locally grown organic foods. She gave me a number of suggestions for accessing these foods, including the Wolfville Farmer’s Market.
  • Water tests. Since we get our water from a well, she suggests regular water tests (something I admit I have not done in a few years and really need to do). The testing should be done not only for biological hazards but for heavy metals as well as arsenic and lead which can be a problem in this part of the world.
  • Fish: She suggests eating fish regularly as part of a healthy diet but warns about high mercury levels. Shark, fresh tuna and swordfish should be eaten no more than once a month, especially by children and pregnant women. Smaller fish like sole, halibut, haddock and salmon are much lower in mercury levels and are safe to eat a number of times a week. Interestingly, canned tuna has much lower levels of mercury than fresh and the cheaper light tuna has less mercury than the more expensive white tuna. Canned tuna can be eaten a few times a week as well.
  • She also recommends Vitamin D supplements for adults. I asked her about supplements for the Dudes and she said if the kids drink a lot of milk (which they do) they should be getting enough that way and not to worry about supplements. It is adults who need more… and The Girl, I guess, since she doesn’t drink milk either.

On the purely medical side, in terms of tests and screening, there is very little more I can do right now. I saw a dermatologist when Dad was sick. Since he had melanoma it was recommended that I get examined for any strange skin discoloration or suspicious moles but after a painfully long wait in a busy waiting room with a screaming infant I was cleared of any problems. Other tests will have to wait until I am older. I will be lucky enough to get a colonoscopy when I hit forty because of the family history of colorectal cancer. The mammograms will kick in then as well. That leaves regular pap tests and breast self-exams as the only screening options for me at the moment.

That’s my story… if you have a family history of cancer talk to your doctor about any screening you may be eligible for. It is different for every family.

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One Response to Giving Up Cancer for Lent: On the right track…

  1. got mercury says:

    An easy way to estimate your mercury exposure from eating fish is to check out the free online mercury calculator at Based on the current U.S. EPA and FDA guidelines, the mercury calculator is an excellent way to know your potential mercury exposure risk. You can also use the free mobile mercury calculator for cell phone browsers at

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