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Have Healthy Breasts at Every Age

By: , – By Alyssa Shaffer, of Woman's Day
10/22/2012 6:00 AM   :  12 comments   :  8,347 Views

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Good-for-You Guide

You've supported them in hundreds of bras, figured out what shirts make them look bigger (or smaller)—maybe nourished your kids with them. You want to give your breasts the respect they deserve. As they change with time, the way you take care of them needs to shift as well. Below is a healthy breast-owners' manual for life.


30s

Your breasts may be: Feeling PMS-related aches and lumps, and changing through pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Take action

TRY A SUPPLEMENT COCKTAIL. A combo of 100 to 200 mg of vitamin B6, 200 to 400 IU of vitamin E and two capsules of evening primrose oil taken daily for one week before your period can ease breast discomfort. The vitamin B helps stop swelling, and the vitamin E and evening primrose oil help relieve pain. (Check with your doctor.)

KNOW WHAT'S NORMAL FOR YOU. Do monthly self-exams so you can spot changes more easily. Keep in mind that there's a slightly higher rate of breast cancer during the five years after pregnancy, and tell your doctor about changes like bleeding or lumps ASAP.


40s

Your breasts may be: Starting to feel softer (and look less-than-perky), since you're developing more fatty tissue.

Take action

HAVE A MAMMOGRAM. Although the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force advises starting mammograms at age 50, groups like the American Cancer Society and the American College of Gynecologists and Obstetricians say to begin at age 40. At the very least, a mammogram in your early 40s will help establish a baseline so your doctor can better determine whether any changes are irregular.

WALK FOR AT LEAST 30 MINUTES DAILY. Since it helps you maintain a healthy weight and keep estrogen levels in check, any amount of exercise that ups your heart rate can help lower your breast cancer risk.


50s, 60s and Beyond

Your breasts may be: Less dense as your tissue shrinks and less elastic as your skin loses collagen. You can still feel lumps and bumps and tenderness, particularly as you head into menopause. But once your periods stop and your hormones settle, the discomfort should subside.

Take action

DISCUSS HORMONE THERAPY (HT) WITH YOUR DOCTOR. The latest research shows that taking estrogen and progesterone together for less than three years does not raise your risk of breast cancer. Taking estrogen alone appears to be safe for about five years. You may not need to go the prescription route—some studies have shown that over-the-counter options like black cohosh extract can help reduce symptoms of hot flashes, mood changes and vaginal dryness.

PUT THE BRAKES ON WEIGHT GAIN BY ADDING 10 MINUTES TO YOUR WORKOUT. Start by tacking on 2 minutes per session and go up from there. Extra pounds can mean higher estrogen levels, which can raise your breast cancer risk, especially during and after menopause. But it's never too late to reap the results of slimming down. A recent study at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle found that overweight and obese women between 50 and 75 years old who lost just 5% of their body weight lowered their risk of developing breast cancer by as much as 50%.


Breast Q & A

Q. Should I be getting a sonogram instead of a mammogram?
A. A sonogram, or ultrasound, does not replace a mammogram, but experts do recommend that women who have very dense breast tissue and/or a strong family history of breast cancer get a sonogram in addition to a mammogram. If your breast tissue is very dense, unusual growths may not show up as readily on a mammogram as they do on a sonogram. Since sonograms are more sensitive, there is a higher risk of a false positive, which is why experts don't advise all women to routinely have this screening.

Q. One of my breasts is bigger than the other. Is that OK?
A. Absolutely! In fact, very few women have perfectly symmetrical breasts. (For no specific reason, the left breast generally tends to be larger than the right.) It's also not uncommon for your nipples to look slightly dissimilar or point in different directions. Most of the time, simply wearing a bra that fits well can help compensate for the difference. The only time to be concerned is if you notice a sudden increase in the size of one breast or nipple.If that's the case, make an appointment to see your doctor, who can check for an underlying growth.

Q. Why do I sometimes notice discharge?
A. Most of the time it's entirely harmless, but if your breast is also sore, red or warm to the touch, you may have an infection that requires antibiotics. A blockage in your ducts, especially around menopause, can also cause discharge, as can a diet high in certain herbs including fennel or anise. In rare cases, discharge can be a sign of a form of cancer called Paget's disease. In general, it's a good idea to see your doctor to make sure it's nothing serious.


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Comments

  • 12
    I wish there was a way to get these heavy 42DD sagging boobs to get a bit smaller and a bit less droopy other than surgery!!! Suggestions are welcome!!! - 10/29/2012   3:23:20 PM
  • 11
    Save the TaTas! Keep talking about it, ladies, and spread the word often! We can't just talk about it in October (breast cancer awareness month) or May in my town (Komen Walk)! Keep the lines of communication open with family, friends, and doctors. Men too. I have my husband double-check my self-breast exams for added fun ;) - 10/27/2012   4:35:10 PM
  • 10
    Boo. I am not looking forward to having saggy breasts. I guess I had better enjoy the perkiness while it lasts. - 10/24/2012   1:52:52 PM
  • 9
    My well women's check and blood work & mammogram are scheduled for 11/19/12 - my yearly checks! - 10/24/2012   12:32:53 AM
  • CHANGINGK
    8
    Mamogram, mamogram, mamogram! Last year at the age of 50, during my routine mamogram, it was discovered I had Stage "0" breast cancer. Now, 2 surgeries and 6 weeks of radiation later, I can't stress enough how important mamograms are!!! I am breast cancer free! - 10/23/2012   9:31:11 AM
  • 7
    no comment - I still try to keep my pecs from transforming into something I DO NOT want. - 10/22/2012   8:31:34 PM
  • 6
    I get my yearly mamogram. I also do chest flyes when I lift weights and that helps with gravity. I make sure I always wear a bra when I wear clothing. - 10/22/2012   3:47:50 PM
  • GENERIC-FIT
    5
    Totally agree with Lolamom2! Although mine don't sink to the navel they just about disappeared! Don't get me wrong, I'm glad for my exercise and staying fit. But breasts? What breasts? - 10/22/2012   3:41:02 PM
  • WITCHWENDY
    4
    mamogram wonderful idea!!! . I lost BOTH breasts to cancer this past year . I am still in chemo not fun. get them checked girls it saved my life it could save yours - 10/22/2012   1:52:36 PM
  • 3
    I can't remember the last time my boobs were "perky". As the old commercial goes,"they've fallen and they can't get up!" LOL !!!

    I did have my first mammogram this year. So, I know I did one good thing for my boobs. - 10/22/2012   12:55:21 PM
  • 2
    Amazing what weight loss does to breasts! Do two empty gunny-sacks hanging to one's navel count as healthy breasts? - 10/22/2012   10:10:38 AM
  • 1
    I have very dense tissue and need to have a mamogram & ultasound everytime I get tested. In the past I have esperienced several cysts in both breast mostly the left. When I lived on Alberta & BC the doctor would remove the cyst manually with a needle and extraction of the fluid. In Ontario they just give me medication. I have found that wearing a sports bra to bed seems to eliminate the possibily of gets cysts as often. - 10/22/2012   10:05:51 AM

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