Things you need to know about your breasts

Things you need to know about your breasts

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Dr Rajendra S Rampaul

Men are from mars and women are from venus…but breasts, it’s definitely one common interest that men and women share. Whilst most men would like to believe that they “know it all” about breasts, their female counterparts may not be as certain.

Size No pair of breasts are usually the same size or symmetrical. The left breast is slightly larger than the right. For many, this may go unnoticed. For others, there can be a drastic difference.  In some instances, the latter can be due to a congenital deformity and assessment by breast specialists can rectify this.

Bra size When it comes to the correct bra size, just about all women are guilty of buying bras because of its sex appeal instead of comfort or both. Ill-fitting bras, however, can make women a victim of breast discomfort and pain.  Proper measurements are important to provide the support and lift that is needed.

Every woman’s breast tissue is different Your breast is made of fatty and glandular tissue. The proportion of this varies from woman to woman and gives breast a different feel. For many, breasts may feel “lumpy” but it is still normal. As women go through menstrual cycles, the female hormone oestrogen affects the breast tissue, making them firmer, fuller and tender. When women enter menopause breasts become less dense and firm, whilst this may not be desirable by women it gives the benefit of easy assessing on mammograms.

Lumps aren’t always cancer Finding a breast lump is always a very daunting experience. However, the majority of lumps are all innocent. Younger women may tend to have very lumpy breasts and can be normal. Many have incidental findings of simple breast cysts which are fluid-filled sacs and benign. Some, depending on size and features, may require drainage. A breast lump, once discovered, should always be assessed by a breast specialist regardless of age.

Pain A very common complaint and, of course, one which stirs up feelings of worry and concern. A great misconception lies with many that pain equates to breast cancer. Breast pain is usually due to many innocent causes ranging from cyclical changes in hormones, ill-fitting bras, trauma and muscular pain. Though the causes may not be one to create concern, all women should consult with their doctors.

Discharges from nipples  aren’t always milk Nipple secretions can vary in colour-clear, milky, yellow, brown, green, and even bloody. It can be unilateral or bilateral, and from one milk duct to many.

Extra nipple and breast tissue As shocking as it may seem, this is not uncommon. These can lie anywhere along the mammary line (line drawn from under the arm, through the nipples, and down to the groin).

Breast cancer and inheritance Breast cancer is one of the leading cancers in women. One out of eight women will develop this. Though some may have a family history, only five to ten per cent will have a genetic mutation. Having a family history increases the risk and should be assessed by a specialist.

Fit is in Believe it or not, being fit can help save our breasts. Many breast cancers are dependent on oestrogen, some of which is produced by body fat. Breast cancer patients and those at high risk should keep their BMI within limit.

Knowing your breast is best Regardless of age, women should get to know their breasts; know what is their normal, and know when to visit their doctor. All women should have breast exams by a breast specialist and annual mammograms over the age of 40.

-Rajendra S Rampaul,  consultant oncoplastic breast surgeon, surgical oncologist,  Pink Hibiscus breast health specialist.