Taking care of your breasts
Breasts are wonderful things - soft, warm, able to provide nourishment for babies and pleasure for you.
Breasts are essentially modified sweat glands that produce milk. Simply put, breasts are made up of:
- fat (or more technically adipose tissue),
- milk producing lobes (including the milk storage and secretion systems)
- and ligaments to hold them up.
- On the outside there are nipples and areoli.
Breast size is determined by the amount of adipose tissue or fat in the breasts and has no bearing on the milk producing capacities of the breast.
Breast tissue extends to the armpit. The lymph nodes in the armpit drain the breast tissue. Everyday movement of the body causes the breasts to move around which aids the movement of fluids out of the breast and into the lymph nodes.
Breasts are glandular organs that are very sensitive to any hormonal fluctuations in the body which explains the changes they go through during the menstrual cycle and pregnancy, childbirth and lactation. In turn being glands they can secrete hormones themselves which influence other parts of the body. The breasts are intimately connected with the female genitals and repoductive system and vice versa.
Breasts change through the menstrual cycle. Most if not all women can notice the changes that their breatst can go through each cycle. The way your breats look, their size, the way they respond to touch, soreness or tenderness all fluctuate.
Not much is taught about breast care - unless there is disease / disomfort or you are speaking of self examination or you are having trouble breastfeeding then most of us probably don't really give our breasts alot of attention.
This was certainly true in my own case. But over the last 12 months I had noticed that my breasts were starting to feel heavy and sore most days through my cycle, and definitely worse in the post ovulation phase. I am not big breasted but I found my breasts were getting so tender I was having to sleep with a bra on. This was a reasonably big deal for me as I generally avoid wearing bras whenever possible. My breasts were uncomfortabe to touch and generally no fun anymore.
Recently I started an exercise program which included some exercises for the breasts. What I noticed after doing these simple exercises for a few weeks was that my breast tenderness just about disppeared (in fact they are only a little tender pre-menstrually now) and my breasts decreased in size (lost a certain pendulous look) and were more perky and youthful. What I think has happened is that the exercises stimulated the breast tissue and helped them to drain excess fluids out via the lymph nodes in the armpit. It wasn't an outcome I had aimed for but there it was.
As I researched the information for this article I came across this site which you might want to look at http://www.bodymechanics.net/subpages/breast.html . It goes into the anatomy and structure of the breast, the effect of toxins in the breast and the possible link to breast cancer, bras and their link to breast cancer and advocates self massage to stimulate the breast so that toxins are removed and they are kept healthy. It also has a video on self massage that you can follow.
I think any massage to the breast should be done very gently. For myself the exercises are incredibly simple and gentle and include:
- Rub hands together to warm them. Place one hand over each breast with nipple resting between thumb and forfinger. Rotate breasts gently upward, outward and then inward. Do this about 24 times.
- Warm hands, using four fingers gently rub the whole of the breast in a circular movement around the breast.
- Warm hands, using four fingers gently rub the nipple and areola ia circular movement.
Diet is always an important factor of good health. If you suffer from very sore or tender breasts, expecially pre-menstrually you may need to address some dietary issues. You can check out our article on PMS types http://www.menstruation.com.au/periodpages/pmstypes.html , PMS type B and H generally suffer from tender breasts and there are some simple things you can do to lessen the discomfort.
Breast Self Examination is important as most women know - one thing about doing the self massage regularly is if you are more likely to remember to do your self exam. For instructions on how to do Breast Self Examination (BSE) properly see http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/TheBreast.html This is a very good site with video, quizes and information to help make BSE easy.
What kind of bra you wear, how often you wear a bra and if you wear a bra at all could also contribute to your breast health. According to the book "Dressed to kill, the Link between Breast Cancer and Bras" by Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer, there is a real link between bras and breast cancer. I haven't had the chance to read the book yet but one of their studies of 4700 women showed that the women who wore their bras 24 hours a day had the highest incidence of breast cancer and those that didn't wear bras had the lowest incidence of cancer. This is only a small study and more research needs to be done but it is food for thought. It is easy to imagine that wearing a tight bra that restricts the natural movement of the breast and therefore the drainage of toxins out of the breast probably isn't the best way to care for your breasts.
When choosing a bra - try to choose a bra for breast health not fashion. Choose a cotton, comfortable bra, avoid wearing sports bras and push up bras or underwire bras for long lengths of time.
More Breast Health links http://www.007b.com/bras_breast_cancer.php
Breast Care is important, and by making a few simple choices you can keep your breasts healthy and reduce discomfort.
This was an article produced for our Menstrual Musings Newsletter October 2005 - Get Newsletter
Written by Nadia MacLeod