Table of Contents
Breast Health Information
Measures a woman can take throughout her life to maintain the best possible health for her breasts. Because there is such wide variation around what is “normal” when it comes to breasts, health experts urge women to become familiar with the appearance and feel of their own breasts so they can easily and quickly detect changes that warrant further medical evaluation.
A comprehensive approach combines lifestyle habits that support breast health with monthly breast self-examination, regular breast exams from a health-care provider, and mammogram (when age appropriate).
Breats and Menstrual Cycle
A woman’s breasts are somewhat dynamic in that they undergo cyclic changes that follow the menstrual cycle. The glandular tissues respond to estrogens and progesterone in the woman’s blood circulation. The same hormonal patterns that prepare the uterus for pregnancy also prepare the breasts to produce milk.
They also cause cyclic changes in the breasts. Many women find their breasts become tender and somewhat swollen during the week before their menstrual periods the luteal or secretory phase of the menstrual cycle when estrogen levels are especially high.
Women who have fibrocystic breasts may experience increased symptoms during this time. Knowing these cyclic patterns makes it easier to distinguish normal from unusual changes.
Lifestyle factors that influence breast health include eating habits, physical exercise, and cigarette smoking. Some research studies suggest a diet high in saturated fat (animal fat) raises the risk for fibrocystic breast disease and breast cancer. The findings of other studies are inconclusive.
There is increased risk for breast cancer with obesity, however, which may be a consequence of diet and exercise or a function of increased estrogen in the blood circulation as a result of aromatase conversion of stored estrogen in adipose (fat) cells.
Numerous studies associate cigarette smoking with increased risk for fibrocystic breast disease, fibroadenoma (noncancerous breast tumor), breast cancer, and cancer overall.
See also DIET AND HEALTH; EXERCISE AND HEALTH; MASTITIS; OBESITY AND HEALTH; SMOKING AND HEALTH; SMOKING CESSATION.Page last reviewed: