19 Things to Do to Promote Breast Health during the COVID- 19 Pandemic
In my first volume, I explained what to do if your screening mammogram has been postponed. In this volume I will touch on diet and some other factors that can affect your breasts.
There are so many disruptions in our daily routines these days, it is easy to suspend some good habits, and perhaps supplant them with bad habits. So it may be a good time to take inventory of your daily routine, since so many of us have a lot of free time on our hands. At least you could have free time if you tear yourself away from Social Media, and the television. But do spend some reasonable time educating yourself on LinkedIn and other places.
While the number 19 may intimidate you, in fact I had to whittle the list down to mention only 19, so I hope you will take some of them to heart. I will cover all of them over the next three installments of this post.
#1 Limit your alcohol intake.
There is very clear data showing a correlation between alcohol intake and breast cancer risk. Zoom Happy Hours have become the thing, and it is very easy to get sucked into having a few with your friends online, and then continue during the evening. DON’T DO IT. If you do have a cocktail with your friends online, let that be it for the night. You should limit yourself to 1 alcoholic beverage per day.
#2 Maintain ideal body weight.
Once again, there is clear data showing a correlation between obesity and increased breast cancer risk. Be careful that you don’t become victim to adding the COVID-19 pounds to your waistline. If you support your local restaurants by ordering take out (and let me suggest Little Bear, for those of you in ATL), focus on those that have healthy entrees, rather than junk food. Do not keep sugar loaded snacks and potato chips in your house, so you won’t be tempted to munch on them. Keep some fresh fruits on hand for between meal snacks. Unbuttered popcorn is a nice snack to keep handy, especially since so many of us are using our Netflix accounts these days.
#3 Stop smoking, or don’t start back.
I don’t think anyone but the Flat Earth Society would claim to be unaware of the cancer risk associated with smoking, except perhaps for the tobacco industry executives. Although the risk for lung cancer is particularly familiar there is also an increase in the risk of breast cancer for smokers. The data is not as strong as for lung cancer, but the data is good enough for me to strongly recommend that everyone stop smoking. So just do it!
#4 If you are taking estrogen (Premarin), or particularly estrogen/progesterone (Prempro), please investigate with your Doctor to confirm if you can stop taking it or if there are natural alternatives.
Fewer women are prescribed hormones after menopause these days because data has shown significant adverse effects with long term use, including increased risk of heart disease, and increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. There may still be limited role for estrogen therapy after menopausal if your postmenopausal symptoms are severe, but it would be better if you can find an effective nonhormonal options.
#5 Get a good night’s sleep, preferably 7 or more hours.
It is not easy to study the impact of sleep, or lack of sleep, on the risk of any cancer. But there are studies that strongly suggest a correlation. The risk of breast cancer appears to be higher for women who work irregular hours including night shifts. With so many people following the shelter at home orders, it would seem to be an ideal time to try to work on good sleeping habits, that hopefully can carry over to when we get back to the new post-COVID-19 normal.
#6 Thinking of getting pregnant? It could be a good idea.
There are already predictions of a COVID Baby Boom beginning 9 months from now, and then there are naysayers. At any rate, does it have any relevance in terms of breast health? Well as it turns out, there is a definite decreased risk of breast cancer in women who have their first full term pregnancy early in life. Of course, a decision to start a family must be weighed carefully, so far as breast cancer risk is concerned, the sooner the better.
I’ll continue this list in the next installment, coming soon. Did you catch the first volume? I hope you’ll seriously considering some of these suggestions to help improve your breast health. I’d love some feedback. Feel free to comment, and stay safe!