It is October again, and breast cancer awareness is top of the agenda for the entire month. With cancer rates on the rise generally, and breast cancer levels increasing for those of us over the age of 50, it’s time to pay attention. And it’s definitely time to pay more attention to your own breasts. Time to pay more attention to yourself full stop.
Do you sometimes forget yourself in your concern for helping others? Are you overdoing it by ‘doing your bit’? Do you regularly donate money or run a marathon to raise funds? Do you volunteer at events and buy pink products that donate a percentage of the proceeds to one of the remarkable charities that do so much for the breast cancer cause?
It is people like you that really make a difference to those charities, and all the people that they so admirably help, but don’t forget to also look after yourself. Take the time during October to focus on you. Think about what you can do to reduce your own risk and become more aware of your own body. Keep a close eye so that if anything out of the usual does appear, you are on it and can deal with it promptly. No-one ever thinks breast cancer will happen to them, but sometimes, out of the blue and often inexplicably, it just does.
Lymph | The secret of breast health
Awareness is the key here, and prevention. Being in touch with your own body. Help yourself stay healthy by keeping your breasts uncongested and your all important lymph flowing and keep the dangers of stagnation at bay.
Lymph is the answer to sorting congestion anywhere in your body, and getting it moving again is vital for breast health. Make your daily shower time for a lymphatic boost. Try dry skin brushing before you turn on the water, always moving the brush from your extremities towards your heart; or use a flannel and rub it clockwise round your breasts, and then again in the opposite direction, to really stimulate your lymph.
And whenever you notice a red mark on your body as you undress, whether it’s from a too tight bra, the top of your socks cutting into your ankles or the waistband of your trousers unforgivingly digging in, pay attention and don’t ignore it. It’s a sign that your lymph has been constricted and is probably no longer flowing as it should. Massage the area gently and get it moving again.
Remember to check your breasts
You have probably heard about checking your breasts, but do you have a clue how to go about it? It’s a simple and easy process and something you should get in the habit of doing each and every month. Like checking your bank statements, or paying your monthly bills. Something that niggles if you forget.
If you are pre-menopausal, the best time for a self-examination is about a week after your last period. If you are post menopausal just choose a particular day - I check every first day of the month - and stick to it.
How to check your breasts
1. First, do a visual check
Stand naked in front of your bathroom mirror and look carefully at both your breasts. Notice their shape and their size, and don’t worry if they are not identical. Most people have one breast that’s bigger than the other. What you are looking for are things that don’t seem quite normal. Any puckers or dimples that weren’t there before? Any discharge from your nipples or patches of scaly skin? Has either breast changed shape recently, or grown bigger than the other?
When you have finished this first inspection, raise your arms up and over your head and double check it all again.
2. Next, do a touch test
Lift up your right arm and then, using the pads of the three fingers of your left hand, carefully and thoroughly press gently all round your right breast. Start on the outside and move inwards, pressing in small circles. Then change the movement and press in straight lines right across the breast from one side to another. Lastly, circle the nipple, moving from around its edge into ever widening circles until you reach the outside edge. Gently squeeze your nipple to check for any discharge and then do exactly the same on your other breast. To be thorough, do the same exercises lying down flat, with your arms behind your head. Any problems of any kind, please immediately make an appointment and check with your doctor.
Regular breast massage
I met a most remarkable lymphatic therapist in the States years ago called Lymph Lynda and was introduced to the concept a couple of decades ago. Today, Lynda's massage technique is an essential part of my health routine and one that I heartily recommend to you.
If you value your breasts don’t miss out on a weekly massage. No sniggers here... I am talking about self massage, rather than anyone else’s massage. Not husband, partner or therapist, but you yourself, checking your breasts in a focused sort of way.
As little as five minutes massaging can make a noticeable difference, and if you have those menopausal wide awake periods in the night, a bit of massage can happily pass the time. Likewise, if you regularly sit for hours in a traffic jam on your way back from work, do something useful on your journey home (hopefully without the car in front glued in amazement to their mirror).
The thing is that breasts get congested. You may not have particularly noticed, but they do. Stuck in bras day and night (you would be amazed how many people wear their bras 24/7, and how many wear entirely the wrong size) they are constrained and constricted. Under-wiring blocks blood circulation further and restricts the lymph’s ability to clear toxins and waste. It’s that toxic build up over time that allows lumps and bumps to get a hold and grow. They are usually benign, but who wants lumps and bumps? And I bet it never crossed your mind you could get rid of most of them!
It’s really all up to you. You know your breasts better than anyone. You know how dense they feel, and how that density changes according to your shifting hormones. If you massage them regularly, you will pick up any unusual changes as soon as they show up, and the earlier you find something out of the ordinary the easier it is to deal with it.
Breast massage needs to be incredibly gentle. In fact, the more gentle it is, the faster your congestion will clear. You are working with your lymph, and lymph responds better to a feather light touch than a stronger pressure. And the more you massage, the smoother your breast texture will be. Eventually, after just a few minutes on each side, your breasts will feel like a bag of jelly; soft, liquid and smooth. Many of those lumps and bumps that you may take for granted as ‘normal’ will disappear entirely.
How to massage your breasts
The first thing to do is find your sternum, the breast bone that runs down the centre of your body, under your collarbone, and which all your ribs are attached to. Find the gaps between your ribs and gently massage those gaps, all the way along till you reach your under arm area. Work from the top, all the way down, and on both sides.
Then start on the breast of your choice. Make small rubbing circles, lifting and slightly pressing. Cover the whole surface, making sure your pressure is light but firm. You will find the surface gets softer, and as you continue, you will be able to penetrate deeper. If you find a bumpy area, just gently keep massaging. The tissue will get smoother and keep changing. Illogically, the softer you touch, the more the tissue lets you in.
To finish your massage, sweep both hands in a light brushing movement from the middle of your breast towards your armpit. That’s where your main lymph node ‘disposal centres’ sit and they will efficiently dispose of any congestion or unwanted ‘stuff’.
After a few days of regular massage, your breasts will be noticeably changed. Try it. And please let me know if you can tell the difference!
Written by health advocate Sara Davenport, who founded one of the UK's largest breast cancer charities, The Haven, twenty years ago. With Reboot Health, Sara aims to bring the best preventative and curative health solutions ranging from nutrition, alternative therapies, fitness and conventional medicine.
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