The EclecticPhysician

The Eclectic Physician
Natural Health Care
by Beth Burch N.D.

Breast Problems-

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 affect either.

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 gland.

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.

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