I know cancer. I know how cancer starts, how it survives and why it multiplies. I know why it spreads, where it likes to go, and the devastation it leaves behind.
I am a radiation oncologist and I treat cancer every day. So when I get home at night, I think about how to prevent cancer. Like you, I want to protect myself and my loved ones from this epidemic. Here are my thoughts based on the current medical literature:
- Don’t smoke. Tobacco, marijuana- doesn’t matter. Don’t smoke it, ever. PS. Don’t use chewing tobacco either.
- Eat as many fresh fruits and vegetables as possible. Straight up. Buy organic if you can, or grow them in your garden. Eat a fruit or a vegetable every time you put something in your mouth. We don’t fully understand why, but they seem to protect us from cancer – a lot.
- Get some fresh air and sunshine daily. Turns out vitamin D is really important and the best way to get it is from the sun. Yes, I said the sun and here’s why.
- But never get sunburned. Wear a hat -not a baseball hat. I’ve seen too many men with the tops of their ears cut off from skin cancer. Cover your ears and face.
- Be active. Note: I didn’t say go to the gym or do P90X or whatever. Exercise science doesn’t support an hour on the treadmill and who has that kind of time anyway? It turns out the body was made for motion and if we don’t keep it moving, there are consequences.
Take the stairs. Often hard to find sadly, but it’s worth it. Trust me.
Park the farthest away from the store you can get (even at Christmas). Seriously, trolling for parking is a health hazard.
Carry your heavy shopping bags to the far-away parking space too – quickly.
- Play with your children and pets as much as possible.
Play hard, run, catch a ball, jump
Run/walk uphill as fast as you can for about 7 minutes to get your heart pumping. Do this about 3-5 times a week.
- Avoid processed foods. What are these? Basically anything that comes in a bag that you or God didn’t put it in.
Despite what the Surgeon General tells you, the only thing really worth reading on those complicated food labels are the “Ingredients” and if you don’t recognize them, don’t put them in your mouth.
Remember, the food industry is exactly that, an industry. Their goal is to sell you “food”.
My advice – if your grandmother wouldn’t recognize it, avoid it.
Finally, get the HPV vaccine if you are eligible. HPV is a virus that causes throat cancer which is treated aggressively with close to 7 weeks of radiation and chemotherapy. It also causes cervical cancer which requires surgery and radiation to treat. Hard to understand why anyone would prefer this to prevention. Really hard to understand.
Okay, that’s my starter list, more to come. Keep it simple – you throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball.
Dr. Norleena Gullett is a Radiation Oncologist at Erlanger Cancer Institute in Chattanooga, TN. In addition to her medical expertise, she strives to offer emotional, psychological, and spiritual support in her care for her patients. She prides herself on treating you, the whole person, with the best care possible.