Yes, they are sexualized; but the reason we have breasts is not to turn men on or to make babies- but to feed them (babies, not men).
At its most rudimentary level, the breast is a gland intended to make milk. Milk is made in the lobules in the breast, drained through the ducts, and out the nipple. Breast cancer is formed when breast cells (which are controlled by the genes in the cell) deviate from their regular growth and rest cycle, creating an abnormality. While cancer is always caused by an abnormality in the genes, 90% of breast cancers are due to genetic irregularities instigated from aging (only 10% are thanks to your genetic lineage- mom and dad).
The frightening fact is that breast cancer is a reality that most of us in our lifetime will be forced to face. A friend, relative, coworker, or even you will be diagnosed. The stats say that one in thirteen average women will have the disease in their lifetime. The figure of one in seven that is more commonly thrown around includes those who are high risk (if your mother or sister have or have had breast cancer).
Ready for this? The two biggest risk factors are-
1: being a woman and
2: aging. Unfortunately, if you are a woman, you automatically fall into both
You can’t change (nor would you want to) either of those causes, but, thankfully, there are things that you can do to lower other risk factors. As much as you may wish you could control every facet of your environment, you can’t really regulate your intrinsic internal environment (I will explain below). But when it comes to your external environments, you have the power to take the reins!
Knowledge is power. Arm yourself with information and lower your odds. BUT, keep in mind that doing so does not assure zero risk. It is also important to remember that many women who have a particular risk factor for breast cancer may never develop it.
Your internal environment includes your genes, hormones, emotions, and, once ingested, your external environment. Your genetic makeup has a direct and unchangeable effect on your chances of getting breast cancer.
Your external environment refers to the air, water, food, people, sounds, stress, pollution, home you live in, lifestyle, and spaces you place yourself. Much of the food we eat and air we breathe are full of toxins, many of which have been proven carcinogens. When your external environment invades your internal environment (the air you breathe in, the smoke and pollution that seeps into your skin, the food and drinks you consume, and the pills that you pop) you are taking in those toxins too. Remember that your skin is like a sponge, absorbing the environment that surrounds it. Airborne chemicals, smog and smoke are just as easily sucked up by your skin as they would be if you ingested them through your mouth. You can, in many ways, control your external environment and minimize your risks. Here are a few things you can do now:
Stress wreaks havoc in the body, creating an emotionally and therefore physically toxic environment. Harnessing and finding other outlets for stress will help keep you healthier and saner longer.
If you are overweight, losing excess pounds may reduce your risk of breast cancer. Extra fat tissue produces an excess of estrogen, which can stimulate the growth of breast cells- both normal and abnormal.
Obviously and for many reasons. But when speaking specifically about your breasts, studies have shown that women who regularly smoke have a 30% higher risk than non-smokers of getting breast cancer.
A DRINK A DAY
Your liver helps regulate the level of estrogen in your body. Limit your alcohol to one drink of alcohol a day in order to help your liver efficiently do its job. The more estrogen floating around in your body, the higher your risk of breast cancer.
EAT MORE HEALTHY FOODS
Fish, particularly those high in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, sardines and herring, are said to have cancer fighting properties.
Red Grapes, (like the kind that are smushed and turned into red wine) contain powerful cancer-preventing antioxidants called bioflavonoids. They are also a rich source of resveratrol- proven to inhibit the enzymes that can stimulate cancer-cell growth, and ellagic acid, a compound that blocks the enzymes that promote the growth of cancer cells.
Broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower are filled with indole-3-carbinol, a chemical that combats breast cancer by altering cancer-promoting estrogen cells into healthy cells.
Grapefruit contains monoterpenes, which is believed to help wash carcinogens out of the body and inhibit the production of breast-cancer cells in vitro.
Seaweed and other sea vegetables are rich in the fatty acid chlorophylone, which has been linked to breast cancer prevention.
EAT LESS PROCESSED, OVERCOOKED, AND FATTY FOODS
Saturated Animal Fat found in red meat and whole fat dairy products like butter which has been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer in young women.
Burned Food, like charred toast and marshmallows. That black char, scientists say, may up your odds of getting breast cancer. Besides, it doesn’t taste good, so why chance it.
Recent studies link moderate physical exercise and improved immune function and circulation- both are essential when warding off the accumulation of breast cancer cells. For post breast cancer op, exercise has also proven to increase the quality of life for breast cancer survivors, increasing strength, energy levels and improving psychological behavior and mood.
In addition to focusing on prevention, The American Cancer Society recommends breast self exam be performed on a monthly basis beginning in a patient’s 20’s. According to Dr. Kathy Schilling, who was part of the team that developed Breast MRI and works at the Center for Breast Care at Boca Raton Community Hospital in South Florida, “Breast self awareness is important in identifying changes and possible abnormalities. Abnormalities should be reported to a physician.” In addition to self-exams, clinical breast exams should be performed by a breast health expert on a yearly basis and it is recommended that annual mammograms be done beginning at age 40.
Mammography continues to be the best screening tool to detect breast cancer and has been shown to decrease mortality from breast cancer by more than 30% in routinely screened patients.
Dedicated breast MRI, a new breast imaging technique, has been shown to detect invasive breast cancer greater than 3mm in size with nearly 100% sensitivity without the use of radiation. Dr. Schilling notes that “Breast MRI is so successful as it relies on the identification of new vessels induced by the presence of breast cancers. Cancers rely on vessels to supply nutrients for tumor growth. These new vessels are abnormal and result in the abnormal accumulation of intravenous contrast in the patients breast.”
HOW TO DO A BREAST SELF-EXAM
In the Shower
Fingers flat, move gently over every part of each breast. Use your right hand to examine the left breast, left hand for the right breast. Check for any lump, hard knot, or thickening. Carefully observe any changes in your breasts.
Before a Mirror
Inspect your breasts with your arms at your sides. Next, raise your arms high overhead.
Look for any changes in the contour of each breast, a swelling, a dimpling of the skin, or changes in the nipples. Then rest your palms on your hips and press firmly to flex your chest muscles. Left and right breasts will not exactly match—few women’s breasts do.
Place a pillow under your right shoulder and put your right arm behind your head. With the fingers of your left hand flat, press your right breast gently in small circular motions, moving vertically or in a circular pattern covering the entire breast.
Use light, medium, and firm pressure. Squeeze the nipple; check for discharge and lumps. Repeat these steps for your left breast.
Want to add a little extra excitement to the weekly check in? Invite your partner to take part. Once the serious business is taken care of, you can have fun with the feel up. You never know… getting a handle on your health could also spice up your sex life!
Bottom line: protect your pair by minimizing your risk factors and monitoring your breasts through self self-exams and mammography.