For women's health and wellness productsVisit the Plaza
For Queries and discussions Visit the Forum

Breast Care: The Essential Answers to What, Why, How



Our breasts seem like an innocuous enough organ, and for the most part, they are. But more often than not, we take them for granted. There’s a lot that we still aren’t aware in terms of breast care, and there are a lot of potential risks that we fail to recognise just because we, as a society, aren’t encouraged to stay informed about it. Breast cancer, for instance, is a very real issue that many of us don’t know how to protect ourselves against, and so is potential breast tissue damage, pigmentation, sogginess, infections, and so on. It’s essential to know your way around your breasts and to know how to care for them, so here are a few basic tips to get you started.

The Skin On Top:

Though our breasts are usually covered under our clothes, it’s important to remember that the layer of skin right on top of the breasts is actually very sensitive. It’s thin and close to the sternum, and hence, can be susceptible to damage. It’s beneficial to moisturize this area of the chest with a really thick lotion – something akin to a night cream, perhaps – especially ones containing ingredients that bind water to skin, such as hyaluronic acid or cocoa butter. This keeps the skin firm and well-hydrated, providing nourishment to your breasts.

Do Your Breasts Need Sunscreen?

The short answer is a definite yes! The breasts are often ignored when it comes to application of sunscreen, but they require it as much as the exposed skin of your face and body. Excessive exposure to the sun’s UV rays are a potential cancer risk, and can lead to both skin and breast cancers, so a  SPF 60 sunscreen can not only help avoid these risks but also helps curb the breakdown of collagens (aka, the protein in your mammary glands) and elastins to prevent breasts from sagging.

Picking The Right Bra

When it comes to your breasts, gravity is not your friend. Breasts are connected to the chest wall with ligaments and tissues, which, if not correctly supported, may lead to loss of shape and general limpness. This is why picking the right bra is supremely important. You need one that properly positioned cups, fitting into each breast with precision. This helps keep them compressed against the chest wall, protecting them from damage during any rigorous physical activity while simultaneously preserving shape. But bra fittings can be deceptive – you may think that a loose strap or an uneven cup is a regular occurrence, but in reality, they’re signs of your bra not being the right size. According to a 2005 survey, nearly 90 million women around the world wear the wrong size bra, with widespread harmful impacts such as a loss of shape, soreness, itching and general irritation. Therefore, it’s crucial to get yourself measured and fitted within a space of every few months, accounting for changes in weight or breast shape.

Should You Wear Your Bra All The Time?

Ideally, no. The lymph channels around your breasts and in your armpits require free passage to circulate in the right amounts, and wearing tight bras at all times could potentially shut off this lymph flow. This could make it difficult for your body to detoxify your breast tissue and protect it from external infections. Hence, it’s recommended that you take off your bra during certain times of the day and let your breasts breathe. Ideally, go to sleep bra-less.

Diet and Exercise

What you eat affects your breasts too! A high-gycemic diet, i.e a diet rich in carbohydrates, causes high blood sugar, which results in higher insulin levels. Higher insulin levels expose the breasts to threats of cancer, but it’s not just that, high insulin in general, increases risks of all sorts of breast disease. Hence, low-glycemic diets are the ideal.

Proper exercise is a huge help, too. It helps detoxify your body and also helps decrease the amount of oestrogen that affects your breasts. Women who exercise regularly have seen a 30-percent decrease in breast cancer susceptibility.

Soothing Your Cysts

Sore, cystic breasts are never fun but there are ways of taking care of them. Taking Vitamin B6 and Vitamin E supplements help quite a bit (although, it’s good to consult a doctor before you take a strong dosage of either), other than that, applying light herbal oils may alleviate their sensitive and help smoothe bumps caused by fibrocystic breast diseases. Limiting the consumption of certain food items like salt, caffeine and alcohol can also help reduce the tenderness of breasts. Alcohol, especially, has been shown to increase hormone levels, so which can again be a potential breast cancer risk.

Lumps

The biggest and most important rule of breast care is to check for lumps. Regularly.

Sure, some of those lumps may be benign and sure, self-adminstered breast exams might not be sufficient to detect potentially cancerous lumps, but this is a crucial exercise nevertheless. It always keeps you alert, and helps in early detection of any and all breast-related diseases.The best time to do one is right after your period (since breasts tend to be more cystic or lumpy leading up to menstruation), and the lumps to pay close attention to are either the ones that either feel hard or inflexible, or the wiggly and flexible which last for more than two menstrual cycles. It’s these lumps that should immediately prompt you to make a doctor’s appointment and get a mammogram.

Is There A Definitive Prevention For Breast Cancer?

The simplest definition of breast cancer is the uncontrolled growth and multiplication of harmful cells in the breast tissue, which cause a larger failure of the immune system. Commonly diagnosed in women above the age of 50, there is no single documented cause for it, other than the combination of a person’s genes and environment. A family history of the illness increases one’s likeliness of acquiring it, since mutation of the BRC1 gene forms one of the major risk factors. Frequent mammogram checks after the age of 40 are a good preventive measure, but other than that, regulating one’s lifestyle choices – in terms of diet, exercise, sleep patterns, controlled stress levels and better breast care – can help mitigate the possibility of the disease occurring. But other than that, there isn’t one particular thing one can do to prevent it, if there’s already a genetic possibility of the disease occurring. Keep consulting your doctor frequently (especially in your 40s) and keep putting into place the smaller preventive measures – they’ll reduce your chances, or at least, help with better treatment.

As has been evidenced so far, not taking your breast health seriously can have long-term fallouts. So what are you waiting for? Alter your lifestyle to suit better breast-care and go see a doctor if you find yourself experiencing any of the risk factors mentioned above. It’s never too late to start showing your breasts some love!







About the Author

Rohini Banerjee

Rohini Banerjee is a 23-year old freelance writer who is passionate about issues relating to gender, sex, and sexuality. She's also an advocate for mental health awareness, queer rights, and education, while balancing an abiding love for literature and popular culture.