Breast Health

February 1, 2017

A woman’s breasts are an integral part of her femininity and identity. The breasts are symbolic of female fertility; they nourish, nurture and comfort a woman’s children and they contribute to her sexuality and femininity. A woman’s breasts are so interwoven into the fabric of her very existence that she simply cannot imagine herself without them.

Breast health is an important part of a woman’s overall health and well-being. Being breast healthy means being breast aware; knowing about breast cancer risk factors; understanding the personal risk of breast cancer; proactive ways to help reduce the breast cancer risk; and being informed about screening for the earlier detection of breast cancer. These are important aspects of preventive health care.

Management of all breast diseases including –

  • Breast cancer
  • Breast pain
  • Breast masses
  • Nipple discharges
  • Male breast problems
  • HIV and breast disease
  • Telephonic advice and counselling
  • National referrals to the nearest appropriate facility for mammograms
  • Referrals to your closest medical specialist for the clinical assessment of breast problems
  • Continuous Medical Education sessions for medical professionals


The breasts are made up of tissues that produce milk (glandular tissue), connective tissue, and fat. Younger women tend to have more glandular tissue in their breasts than older women, making their breasts denser.

Each breast is arranged into 15-20 sections called lobes, and each lobe contains a number of milk-producing glands called lobules. Milk produced by the lobules is carried through a network of passageways called ducts, which eventually join together and exit the breast through the nipple.

Connective tissue helps to provide support and give shape to the breasts. The breasts also have a small amount of muscle. Muscle tissue in the nipple allows it to become erect in response to stimulation or breastfeeding. Muscle tissue around the lobules helps squeeze milk into the ducts. Glands on the areola secrete small amounts of fluid to lubricate the nipple when breastfeeding.

The breasts also contain lymph nodes joined by a network of lymph vessels, blood vessels, and nerves which provide feeling to the breast.

During a woman’s menstrual cycle, her breast tissue is exposed to changing levels of female hormones, estrogen and progesterone. In preparation for a possible pregnancy, estrogen stimulates the growth of the milk ducts, and progesterone stimulates the lobules. These changes can cause the breast to be become larger, feel lumpy, and be sore or tender as a woman gets closer to her getting her period.

Some common breast changes are –

  • Fibrocystic breast changes – lumpiness, thickening and swelling, often just before a woman’s period
  • Cysts – fluid-filled lumps
  • Fibroadenomas – solid, round, rubbery lumps that move easily when pushed, occurring most in younger women
  • Intraductal papillomas – growths similar to warts near the nipple
  • Blocked milk ducts
  • Milk production when a woman is not breastfeeding

Cancerous and Non Cancerous Breast Conditions

Every year, according to, around 254,650 women are diagnosed with breast cancer and some 40,170 women die of this disease. It is the second leading cause of death from cancer in women living in the United States.

Here is a list some of the more common breast conditions that are not cancer and are not life-threatening. They are often called benign breast conditions. Still, they can cause symptoms, and some are linked with a higher risk of later developing breast cancer. Benign breast conditions include –

  • Fibrosis and simple cysts
  • Ductal or lobular hyperplasia
  • Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS)
  • Adenosis
  • Fibroadenomas
  • Phyllodes tumors
  • Intraductal papillomas
  • Granular cell tumors
  • Fat necrosis and oil cysts
  • Mastitis
  • Duct ectasia
  • Other benign breast conditions

Breast Health Care

Self-Awareness – Become familiar with your breasts by checking how they look and feel once amonth. Perhaps the best time to examine your breasts is while bathing. In menstruating women this should be done in the week after the menstrual flow stops. By doing this you will learn what is “normal” for you so that you can be conscious of any unusual changes that occur over time. If you detect something strange, report it to your primary healthcare provider. Self-exams empower you to take ownership of your own breast health on a regular basis.

Lying down –

  • First, place a pillow under your right shoulder.
  • Next, put your right hand under your head.
  • Check your entire right breast area with the pads of the fingers of your left hand.
  • Use small circles to feel all around your breast, then feel up-and-down:
  • Use light, medium, and firm pressure over each area of your breast.
  • Gently squeeze the nipple to check for any discharge.
  • Switch arms and repeat these steps on your left breast.

In front of a mirror

  • Look in the mirror (without wearing your bra) then check check for any changes in the shape or the look of your breasts.
  • Note any skin or nipple changes such as dimpling or nipple discharge.
  • Look at your breasts in four steps: arms at sides, arms overhead, hands on hips pressing firmly to flex chest muscles, and bending forward.

In the shower

  • With soapy hands and fingers flat, raise your right arm.
  • Check your right breast.
  • Use the same small circles and up-and-down pattern described above in the “Lying Down” position.
  • Switch arms and repeat on your left breast.

Thermography – Thermography is an alternative breast cancer screening procedure that can be beneficial in preventative breast health when combined with self and clinical exams. It can also be used in conjunction with other imaging systems, such as ultrasound, if concerning results are found. However, science suggests that thermography is not sensitive or accurate enough to be a stand-alone diagnostic test. Thermography is non-radiative and non-invasive; instead, it uses a heat-sensitive infrared camera to take pictures of the body from four to six feet away. The thermal images can reveal warning signs of breast cancer before a breast tumour has actually developed, allowing you time to intervene.

Clinical Checkups – A clinical breast examination is done by a health professional (usually your family doctor). It should be part of every woman’s annual physical examination. Your doctor will look and feel for changes in the skin and for abnormalities in the size or shape of your breasts, such as irregular lumps. It is important to get this second opinion from a professional, in addition to examining yourself at home. If you’re unsure of your technique, this examination is the perfect time to ask for additional breast health information, advice and support.

Lifestyle Changes

  • Avoid exposure to known carcinogens such as tobacco smoke, radiation and asbestos.
  • Get ten hours of moderate exercise every week.
  • Don’t use oral contraceptives.
  • Keep daily alcohol consumption to a minimum.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Eat a varied diet rich in fruits and vegetables and, when appropriate, take supplements of essential nutrients, such as Iodine, Vitamin D and Omega 3 fatty acids.

Nutrient Supplements For Breast health

Vitamin D – Low levels of Vitamin D are a major cause of the body’s inability to resist breast cancer and almost everyone north of Atlanta is deficient.   Vitamin D blood levels over 50 are associated with 83% reductions in breast cancer.

Omega-3 fatty acids have also been associated with a lower risk of breast problems. The theory is that Omega-3’s work to reduce risk in several ways, from reducing the effect of estrogen-like compounds to decreasing inflammation.

Lycopene – This powerful red antioxidant, found in tomatoes, may play a big a role in breast cancer prevention. Lycopene prevents cell damage that can set the stage for cancer.

Selenium – Part of the potent antioxidant glutathione peroxidase, selenium may reduce breast cancer risk in women with the BRCA1 gene mutation.

Vitamin E has been shown to help reduce breast pain and tenderness in a number of studies and is worth supplementing over a couple of months to see if it helps ease your symptoms.

Probiotics – Cyclical breast changes may be due to an excess of oestrogen over progesterone. Probiotics help to increase the levels of enzymes that work to reabsorb the ‘old’ oestrogens in your body. These probiotics (beneficial bacteria) also help to improve the transit time of a bowel movement. The longer waste material stays in your system the more ‘old’ hormones and toxins can be reabsorbed back into your body.

B Vitamins – If there is a deficiency of the B vitamins in your body, your liver will be unable to inactivate ‘old’ oestrogens which can be playing havoc with your cycle and creating an excess of oestrogen because ‘old’ hormones are not being eliminated properly.

Agnus Castus (Vitex agnus castus) – This herb can be enormously useful in helping to alleviate breast tenderness because of its ability to balance the female hormones.

Ginkgo Biloba – A trial conducted by a hospital in France has shown that women who took ginkgo had significantly less pre-menstrual breast pain than those who took a placebo. Ginkgo helps to increase circulation and can also reduce swelling.

Milk Thistle – The liver, which is the major organ of detoxification, helps to eliminate accumulated ‘old’ oestrogen so it is important that it is functioning efficiently. Milk thistle is an excellent herb for optimising liver function. If your body does not excrete oestrogen then you can end up with an accumulation which then further upsets the balance of oestrogen to progesterone.

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