Breast Health — Fibrocystic Breast Condition ("lumpy breasts") What is fibrocystic breast condition?About half of all women have naturally "lumpy" breasts. That is, they have round, firm, rubbery lumps in both breasts. These lumps usually aren’t painful, but in the week or so before each period, they may become tender or painful. This used to be called a "disease" but now most experts consider the condition a variation of normal breasts, not a disease. The fibrocystic breast condition and its symptoms are more common in women in their thirties or forties—not so much in teens. But one word of caution: Since fibrocystic breast condition doesn’t increase the risk of breast cancer, some women may say, "Oh, my breasts are so lumpy, there’s no point in examining them each month." WRONG! You should examine your breasts every month—just after each period. You’ll become familiar with the areas of your breasts that are often thicker and lumpier. If anything feels or looks different, don’t panic, but see a doctor. Even strange new lumps aren’t usually cancerous so don’t panic, but do get professional advice. How do you treat fibrocystic breast condition?If cysts cause tenderness or pain, doctors recommend a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug like aspirin or ibuprofen. Occasionally, one "cyst" may cause chronic pain. If this is the case, it can be drained or removed surgically. How can you avoid fibrocystic breast condition?Some experts recommend reducing or eliminating caffeine from your diet. So if you drink a lot of coffee, tea, or caffeinated soda drinks like colas, and you have painful breasts—stop for a few weeks, or try the decaffeinated versions, and see if it helps. Breast Health — Fibroadenoma What is that? Fibroadenoma is a kind of lump that’s most common in teens and women in their 20s. It’s just an enlargement of a normal breast lobule. These lumps have all sorts of shapes and sizes—as small as a pea or larger than a lemon. How do you treat it?Often, this kind of lump just shrinks or even disappears with no treatment, but never wait for any unusual lump to go away on its own. See your doctor. She or he will probably order some tests like an ultrasound scan or maybe a mammogram. Sometimes a fine-needle aspiration is done and the cells are examined under a microscope. If it is a fibroadenoma, your doctor will discuss your options. Most likely, you will be asked to return in six months. If the fibroadenoma persists, it can be removed surgically. But if it’s really big, it could affect the "look" of your breast, so be sure you hear all sides of the story before proceeding with surgery. Luckily, women who get a fibroadenoma usually never get another one. Breast Health — Breast Cancer What is it?Breast Cancer —the words are scary. Go ahead, say them out loud a few times. No lightening has struck! And, even when breast cancer is diagnosed, it’s not like lightening. Most women diagnosed with breast cancer live out their natural lives. And now —few women actually lose a breast to cancer. In many cases, a young woman can even go on and get pregnant with no increased danger. The real issue for most women with breast cancer is how to live and live fully and happily after the diagnosis. When one member of the family gets breast cancer it affects everybody in the family. Open communication, being able to be honest and real, sad but never hopeless, offering love and hugs —these things make all the difference. All mothers and daughters should probably talk about breast cancer, just to make it a discussible topic. It’s the things we don’t talk about that become scary. We think "That must be really, really horrible if we can’t even talk about it." So get it out in the open. Breast Health — Breast Cancer Risks If there’s a family history of breast cancer, (in mother, grandmother, or aunt, for example) then mothers and daughters must talk about reality and increased risk. This usually means getting the advice of a knowledgeable professional —a doctor or genetic counselor. The risk of breast cancer is lowest in younger women. The risk increases greatly after the age of 40 and two-thirds of breast cancer diagnoses occur in women over the age of 50. Having large breasts or being hit on the breast does not increase your risk of breast cancer. Breast Health — Steps Toward Prevention There are things a woman or teen can do that may help prevent breast cancer. They include: Maintain a normal weight for YOU .Being overweight increases your risk of breast cancer. This doesn’t mean that you should be pencil-thin. Ask your doctor what the range of normal weight is for your height, body type, and bone structure. Age and weightYou don’t need to worry about this just yet, but after the age of 30, gaining an extra 10 or 20 pounds can increase breast cancer risk. Eat a healthy dietIt used to be thought that a very low-fat diet helped women avoid breast cancer, but newer research suggests that’s not true. But for your overall health and breast health you should eat a low-fat diet and the oil or fats in your diets should be "good" ones —unprocessed vegetable oils, nuts, avocado, or fatty fish. Olive oil and flaxseed oil are also really good for you. Avoid "junk" foodCut way down on over processed, fat free or "diet" foods. They generally contain too much sugar. Limit or avoid alcohol If you drink alcoholic beverages at all, do so in moderation; say, no more than three drinks in a week. Keep in mind your state’s legal drinking age. Monthly breast examsMonthly breast exams are an important part in detecting irregularities in your breasts early on. Consult your doctor or check out Doing a Breast Self-Exam on this site for the correct way to perform a breast exam. Drink teaTea has been shown to help prevent several kinds of cancer, including breast cancer. The best choice is green tea, next best is oolong, and the third best is black tea. Remember that these all contain caffeine. Caffeine doesn’t increase the risk of breast cancer, but you may want to cut down on it for other reasons. You can use decaffeinated varieties of these teas, too, if you want to cut down on caffeine. Remember, women live out their full lives after a breast cancer diagnosis. The best treatment is taking steps for prevention and early diagnosis. That’s why self-breast exams are so important. So read Doing a Breast Self-Exam and start on your path to good breast health. Breast self-examinationOne way you can play a part in your own health is by doing a monthly breast exam. Although your doctor will do a full breast exam at your annual visit, doing your own monthly breast exam will make you very aware of any changes in your breasts. We recommend that girls in their late teens or early twenties start examining their breasts once a month. The purpose of this exam is to look for lumps that may be cancerous. Now don’t freak out! This sounds a lot scarier than it is, because the fact is, most lumps found in the breasts are not cancerous. And breast cancer is really rare in teenagers and women in their 20s—so right now you’re pretty low risk. Breast Health — Why do a breast exam? Well first of all, by making this a habit now you’ll get to know your breasts better than anyone. So if anything unusual develops, you’ll know right away. Many teens and women are afraid to examine their breasts because they’re afraid they might find something or because they may not understand what they’re feeling for. But if you know what you’re looking for and understand the importance of why you’re doing it, the exam will be easier. Breast Health — When should you do it? The monthly breast self-exam should be done after your period so there’s less tenderness and swelling. After a few months of checking, you’ll become the expert on your breasts. It’s a good idea to go through the self-exam with your doctor to make sure you’re doing it right. And remember, if you feel a lump or something abnormal, don’t wait for it to go away. Consult your doctor immediately. Breast Health — Breast self-exam steps STEP 1—Check them out Turn on a bright light. Standing naked from the waist up in front of a mirror, just look at your breasts. Do you notice anything that has changed like an inverted nipple, dimpled areas or rashes on the skin? Next, put your hands on your hips and push down with your arms while pushing your chest out. Do you see anything unusual? The breasts should look the same without any unusual dimpling or puckering. Squeeze each nipple gently to check for discharge. A clear discharge is normal. If the discharge is tinged with blood, contact your doctor. STEP 2—Let your fingers do the walking Lie down on your back (flat) with a pillow under your left shoulder and your left arm under your head. Imagine your breast is the face of a clock, with circles drawn on it—one inside the other (kind of like a spiral, or the rings around Saturn.) With your RIGHT hand begin the examination at the 12:00 position, on the outermost (largest) "ring" of your breast. "Walk" your fingers, clockwise, all around that outer circle until you get back to the top. Then move your fingers in about an inch toward your nipple, and do the same thing around the next, smaller "ring". Continue this way until you’ve examined all the breast tissue and the nipple area as well. Don’t forget to probe a bit more by making more gentle circles under your armpit, because breast tissue extends up and under the armpit. Also, if you have larger breasts, you may have to use both light and heavy pressure during your examination to make sure you have checked all of your breast tissue. Switch sides Now switch sides. Put the pillow under your right shoulder, put you right hand behind your head, and start feeling your right breast with the fingers of your left hand. You’re finished
That’s it! These steps are all you need to do. Your self-examination work will be backed up by exams at the doctor’s office each year. In the meantime, report any changes in your breasts or any concerns that you have to your doctor so he/she can follow up with further testing.
Learn about breast health and read helpful information from experts at BeingGirl.com.