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Take care of your breasts
Examine your breasts regularly
Maintain a healthy lifestyle

Common breast ailments
Common breast ailments

The breasts are prone to a number of abnormalities, most harmless. And almost every woman will experience at least one of them during her lifetime:

  • breast pain, which may be related to your menstrual cycle, hormonal changes or tight-fitting clothing
  • a breast infection, called mastitis, that usually occurs in women who are breastfeeding, causing pain and swelling in one breast
  • a lump, which can be a fluid-filled noncancerous cyst
  • a fibroadenoma, or noncancerous tumor that’s usually moveable, smooth, round and rubbery
  • fat necrosis or sclerosing adenosis, which are multiple firm lumps that may be tender to the touch
  • fibrocystic changes, characterized by generalized lumpiness that’s noncancerous

Like the rest of your body, your breasts need tender loving care to stay healthy. This guide will show you how to protect and maintain your breasts.

Examine your breasts regularly

A breast self-exam (BSE) once a month is an important way for you to learn what your breasts normally look and feel like so you can quickly spot any change, including a lump, a rash, an infection or nipple discharge.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle

To keep your breasts healthy you should:

  • Wear a bra that fits. The first step in taking good care of your breasts is to wear a bra that fits properly, something many women aren’t doing. While bras are designed to stop breasts from bouncing, they often miss the mark. In fact, about 50 percent of women experience breast pain during exercise because their bra falls down on the job. To find a good bra, seek out a trained professional to measure you and determine your size. You can find an expert in the lingerie section of nearly any department store.
  • Massage your breasts. Massage can improve blood and lymph flow to the breasts. Try performing 50 to 100 light circles in each direction over the breast tissue and gently rubbing the entire flank and axilla area (underarm) to help circulate lymph.
  • Lose excess weight. Because they’re mostly composed of fat, your breasts will increase or decrease in size depending on your weight. Plus, research shows that obesity raises your risk of breast and other types of cancer.
  • Don’t drink. Alcohol is a known breast cancer risk. But drinking two to five drinks a day raises your breast cancer risk one-and-a-half times greater than those who don’t drink alcohol.
  • Stay active. Regular activity can lower your breast cancer risk.
  • Get regular checkups. Your healthcare provider should perform a clinical breast exam similar to the BSE during your annual physical or along with your pelvic exam. The American Cancer Society recommends annual mammograms beginning at age 40 or earlier if you’re at high risk for breast cancer. If you’re younger than 40, your provider may recommend magnetic resonance imaging instead of a mammogram.