The Eclectic Physician
Natural Health Care
by Beth Burch N.D.
Breasts come in all shapes and sizes. While our society's ideal is a pair
of perfectly matched, erect, eighteen year old, size C breasts, very few
women actually have those. Because of this belief about breasts, many women
are unhappy with theirs. Certainly this has helped to provide a booming
business for the breast surgeons. I hope as time goes on, we will adapt
an appreciation for the wonderful and beautiful variation in breasts. It
is important to realize that loving our breasts as they are is very important
for their health. Our breasts are designed for providing optimal nourishment
to our babies and sexual pleasure for ourselves. Size and shape do not
The breast is a glandular organ, made up of lobes of milk secreting
glands, that empty into ducts which lead to the nipple. The glandular tissue
is affected by our cyclical hormones, resulting in breast changes that
correspond with the menstrual cycle. Pregnancy and its increase of hormones
cause growth of the glandular tissue to support lactation. Stimulation
of the nipples stimulates prolactin and oxytocin secretion from the pituitary
Every woman should have her breasts examined yearly by her health care
provider. She should also examine her own breasts monthly to become familiar
with their normal feel. This can be done as a gentle and healing massage
as well as an opportunity to check for any changes. Breasts should be examined
right after the menstrual period when they are least influenced by hormones.
Lying on your back with your arm behind your head, gently but deeply explore
your breast including the area in your armpit with the flat part of your
fingers. Do the same on the other side. This should be done with the intent
of learning how your breasts feel and to give them positive attention and
feelings. Naturally if you find anything that concerns you, check it out
with your health care practitioner.
Mammograms- a mammogram is a xray of the breast used to detect breast
cancer before it can be felt on examination. The procedure involves compressing
the breast from side to side then top to bottom and taking an xray. Although
some women find the procedure uncomfortable, my own experience is that
it is hardly noticeable. Current recommendation is to have a baseline mammogram
at age 35-40, then on a one to three year basis after age 40. Women with
a history of breast cancer in the family may need to start mammograms at
a younger age and have them more frequently. Remember however the mammogram
is only a screening test and may miss 10-15 % of all cancers or falsely
diagnose a problem 6-10% of the time. They are not a substitute for regular
breast exams and are less reliable in premenopausal women. The dose of
radiation is small, about the same you would get on a plane flight of several
hours, but some women are concerned about repeated exposure of their breasts
to radiation. Discuss your risk with your health care provider and determine
how often you should have them. I think a baseline is a good idea because
it gives something to compare to if a later exam or mammogram detects something.
A baseline mammogram saved one of my friends from unnecessary surgery.
She had a new mammogram which showed abnormalities which the doctor wanted
to biopsy immediately. After obtaining her previous xray, the surgery was
cancelled since she had had those abnormalities for years.
The current hype on mammograms is that they prevent breast cancer. Mammograms
do not prevent breast cancer, they just can detect it early while it is
more curable. There are a number of things which will help to reduce your
risk of breast cancer and they include: lower fat diet, high fiber diet,
intake of soy products and cruciferous vegetables, decreased sugar and
alcohol intake as well as supplements of Vitamins A & C.
Also pregnancy and breastfeeding decrease your risk. Estrogen given without
progesterone is definately associated with an increased risk of breast
cancer, as is family history. Newer research is showing that many toxic
pesticides have an estrogen like activity in the body and may be associated
with breast cancer, so avoiding pesticides in your environment and food
is probably a very good idea.
Breast problems may have a connection with emotional issues as well.
Studies with breast cancer patients have shown they are more likely than
women without breast cancer to suppress their feelings, especially anger.
If you have breast problems, it can be worth exploring your feelings with
a counselor to find healthy ways of expressing them.
* The information presented in this web site is intended to inform and educate.
It is not intended replace a qualified medical practitioner to diagnose or treat medical conditions.