Trawling the internet for breast-related nuggets of wisdom can leave us feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of advice dished out to women on how they should relate to their bodies and, even more so, their breasts. Some say wear bras, some say go free. Some stipulate exercise to keep breasts “buoyant” and “perk”, whilst others present more inwardly-nourishing therapies as the way to accept and love your breasts the way they are. Of course, in lots of ways, it’s great that women are talking about their bodies and their breasts, and many of these “titbits” of advice can be helpful. However, occasionally it feels as though they slip into the realm of prescription and generalisation rather than suggestion–acknowledging and celebrating that every reader’s body and breasts will be different. Ironically, this post will now add to this long list bombarding every women-breast-bodies-related search. But, our hope is that these 5 Tips will be read as just that: little tips and gentle suggestions that can be taken and adapted to your own breasts’ wants and needs.
1. Practise Breast Self-Exams
Having talked a lot about gentle advice, this is the one tip that is truly applicable and important for everyone. While women are most commonly affected by breast cancer, it also affects men, with around 340 men in the UK diagnosed each year, so looking out for any changes in the chest area is also something for men to be aware of. A good piece of advice is to find out if you have a higher risk of breast cancer and to tell your doctor if anyone in your family has had breast or ovarian cancer. The most pro-active thing you can be doing is practising monthly breast self-exams to check for anything that’s not normal for you, such as any unusual lumps or swelling. This is a really handy little breast self-exam diagram from Nor-cal Think Pink to show you how to go about checking your breasts. There is also a lot of really helpful and reassuring advice on breastcancercare.org and cancerresearchuk.org if you’d like to know more about what to look out for.
Moisturising can often feel like a bit of a chore, but there’s no denying it’s great for keeping your breasts happy if you have the time and want to. The skin around your breasts is thin and can be particularly sensitive so, if this is something you’d like to try, it’s a good idea to use a thicker cream that doesn’t contain any irritating chemicals to prevent your chest area from becoming dry and sore. If you notice redness or rashes around your chest area, it may well be your skin reacting to a synthetic fabric in your clothing or a chemical in your moisturiser. It’s a good idea to get it checked out with your doctor just in case and, if it is the fabrics or the cream, wearing clothing that is 100% cotton and using natural skin-creams can help prevent further irritation.
Around your breasts, and indeed your whole body, are lymph nodes which carry fluid called lymph which helps fight off illness. The lymphatic system relies on the movement of the body to keep the fluid moving along, and so one way of helping it out is to massage in the direction that your lymph wants to move, towards the heart. Massaging is also very relaxing and helps to de-stress and cultivate a positive way of touching your body through movements that show care and affection for your body as a whole, rather than treating it as something external from yourself to be criticised and punished in different segments. As well as a source of self-care, it can also be a nice way to treat yourself after a breast self-exam.
4. Maintain a Healthy Diet & Exercise
As with the rest of your body, your breasts require balanced nourishment and regular exercise to keep them happy. A well-balanced diet containing proteins, healthy fats and nutrient-dense foods, such as nuts, eggs, milk and vegetables is one way of helping them along. Increased physical activity reduces the overall risk of breast cancer by 10-30%, so moderate exercise will help protect your breasts. Diet and exercise will vary for every person, depending on time, needs and your body, so go easy on yourself and set small and manageable targets that work for you.
5. To Bra or not to Bra
There is of course absolutely no right or wrong when it comes to whether or not you should wear a bra. It all depends on your body and its needs. If you do wear one, however, it is a good idea to get the right fit to avoid back or shoulder pain. One way of finding out your bra size is to get measured, and many shops and lingerie specialists will provide this service for free. All in all, if you wear a bra, it’s better to have a couple that fit really well and keep your boobs happy than lots of bras that get away with slyly chilling under your tops without chipping in on the overall wellbeing of your breasts.
We hope that you find some of these tips useful and that they can be part of opening up an inclusive and far-reaching conversation about the wonders of breasts!
Written by: Hannah Roberts, volunteering contributor at AmaElla