October is “Breast Cancer Awareness Month,” which was established to remind you to check in on your breast health. After all, your best tool for preventing or detecting problems when they’re easiest to treat is familiarity with your own breasts.
Breast awareness is knowing the ins and outs of what your breasts look and feel like. Healthy breasts not only look “normal” but feel that way, as well. Keep reading to learn the best practices for monitoring your breast health, warning signs of breast cancer, and more!
How Well Do You Know Your Breasts?
Breasts are like fingerprints. Every woman’s is different. Size, shape, and consistency vary from one woman to another, and if you look closely enough, your own two breasts are usually at least slightly different from each other. Commonly, your breasts change as you move through life. So, it is important to be “breast-aware.”
Being breast-aware simply means that you are acquainted with the characteristics of your breasts. Knowing their traits, it’s easier to notice if changes or abnormalities occur.
Doctors recommend yearly, clinical breast exams starting at age 20 and annual mammograms beginning at 40. Some women may want to consider starting these things at earlier ages. Reasons to do so include:
- Family history of breast or related cancers.
- Any tumors, cysts, etc., even if biopsies show they were benign.
- Treatment with radiation – for any condition -- before age 30.
- Difficult menstrual cycles
Whether you get checked once or twice a year – or heaven forbid, not at all – you should also develop the habit of self-examination at least monthly. As this helps you learn what is normal for your breasts, it makes it easy to notice changes, like the sudden appearance of one or more lumps.
For most women, the easiest way to perform a self-examination is while taking a shower or standing in front of a mirror. Either way, you’ll need to look at your breasts and feel each breast and armpit, as well as the area from breast to collarbone.
What to Look For
Now that you know the basics of breast awareness, you need to know what to look for! Remember that everyone’s breasts are different, so you need to know what’s normal – and what’s not – for yours.
It's completely normal if:
You have consistent lumpiness. This might be confusing because lumps are a key indicator of breast cancer, but breast tissue has natural lumps and bumps. If it feels the same in both breasts, it’s most likely your natural, healthy breast tissue. Know your lumpiness and save your concern for new lumps. (But, if you have any doubt, talk to your doctor.)
Your breasts are slightly different sizes. Breast asymmetry is not abnormal. It’s nothing to worry about and sometimes evens out as you age. The thing to look for, again, is changes.
You have hair around the nipples. Your body has hair follicles everywhere. Breasts are no different. The appearance of darker or more visible hair comes with hormone fluctuations.
You experience tenderness around your period. This also stems from hormone fluctuations. Shortly before your period begins, progesterone causes your milk-producing mammary glands to swell while estrogen enlarges your breasts. These variables can trigger tenderness and aches.
If you notice any of the following, see your doctor immediately:
- Any abnormal change in feel, appearance, or shape of your breasts.
- Lumps, hard knots, swelling, or thickening in a breast or armpit.
- Dimpling, puckering, redness, or darkening of the skin.
- Unexpected discharge of fluid from either nipple.
- An eczema-like rash, scaly or itchy skin, or crusting on or around your nipple.
- Changes in nipple position, such as moving inward or pointing differently.
- New discomfort or pain that doesn’t go away.
These symptoms may or may not signal danger, but let your doctor decide. They may be harmless changes, or due to an irritation or infection that is easily treated. On the other hand, they could be something serious that requires immediate medical attention.
Boost your Breast Health
As with any part of your health, you can do some simple things to boost your breast health. Maintaining a healthy diet and partaking in regular exercise can do wonders.
Try to eat 5-8 servings of fruits and vegetables daily, along with healthy protein choices – swap red meat for chicken or fish to minimize saturated fats. Avoid foods with “trans fats” or “hydrogenated” on the labels. Look for foods like these for specific nutrients that may help minimize the risk of breast cancer.
Foods with anti-cancer properties. Certain foods like mushrooms, cruciferous vegetables, leafy greens, citrus fruits, and whole grains have anti-cancer properties.
Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. This includes fish, walnuts, soybeans, pumpkin seeds, and more. Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids may have anti-cancer effects.
Foods rich in antioxidants. Foods like berries, garlic, and onions contain antioxidants that guard against cellular damage, as well as the development and spread of cancer cells[5,6].
Vitamin D. Research shows that low levels of Vitamin D are associated with higher risks for breast cancer and that higher levels may increase survival in those who have it. The best source of vitamin D is what your body makes from sunlight, but you won’t get that when you use sunscreen. If you don’t get 30 minutes of daily, non-blocked sunlight on at least your arms, legs and face or eat a serving of fatty fish every day, you might consider a supplement with 2000 to 5000 IU (50 to 100 mcg) per day. It’s wise to have your doctor test your Vitamin D levels.
DIM is a phytonutrient found in cruciferous vegetables like cabbage and broccoli. Research has shown that DIM can help restore breast health by supporting estrogen balance and metabolism. However, it’s hard to eat enough crucifers to get sufficient DIM.
Optimize your breast health today with our powerful breast supporting formula - Breast-D™ (also labeled as DIM-D). Breast-D™ is a dynamic DIM supplement that supports breast health and healthy estrogen metabolism. It is an exquisite blend of DIM and vitamin D with lycopene and green tea, which further support breast health. It also provides Calcium D-glucarate, which supports healthy hormone balance. Women who use this formula rave about its benefits, especially if breast comfort is an issue.*
Maintaining a healthy diet and partaking in regular exercise provide substantial protection, but are not guarantees. While everyone is aware of breast cancer, few expect it to happen to them. When detected early, the chance of a long, normal life is high and improves every year.
So, practice breast health. Do regular self-examinations and do screenings at least once a year. Know the warning signs and consult your doctor at the earliest sign of detection. Above all, don’t be afraid of warning signs. The worst thing you can do is ignore them. We can’t all avoid breast cancer, but we can ensure much more than a fighting chance.
 Aghajanpour, Mohammad et al. “Functional foods and their role in cancer prevention and health promotion: a comprehensive review.” American journal of cancer research vol. 7,4 740-769. 1 Apr. 2017
 Nindrea, Ricvan Dana et al. “Protective Effect of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Fish Consumption Against Breast Cancer in Asian Patients: A Meta-Analysis.” Asian Pacific journal of cancer prevention : APJCP vol. 20,2 327-332. 26 Feb. 2019, doi:10.31557/APJCP.2019.20.2.327
 Kristo, Aleksandra S et al. “Protective Role of Dietary Berries in Cancer.” Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 5,4 37. 19 Oct. 2016, doi:10.3390/antiox5040037
 Pourzand, Ali et al. “Associations between Dietary Allium Vegetables and Risk of Breast Cancer: A Hospital-Based Matched Case-Control Study.” Journal of breast cancer vol. 19,3 (2016): 292-300. doi:10.4048/jbc.2016.19.3.292
 Chen, Peizhan et al. “Meta-analysis of vitamin D, calcium and the prevention of breast cancer.” Breast cancer research and treatment vol. 121,2 (2010): 469-77. doi:10.1007/s10549-009-0593-9
 Yao S, Kwan ML, Ergas IJ, et al. Association of Serum Level of Vitamin D at Diagnosis With Breast Cancer Survival: A Case-Cohort Analysis in the Pathways Study. JAMA Oncol. 2017;3(3):351–357. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2016.4188