Breast cancer statistics have been on the rise over the last several decades, to the point where one in eight American women will be diagnosed in their lifetimes. Almost all of us know someone who has been affected by this disease—mothers, sisters, aunts, daughters, friends....
What to do? Wear a pink ribbon? Run/walk to fight against cancer? Eat your broccoli? Get regularly scheduled mammograms?
Sure, do any and all of these (except maybe the mammogram—more on that soon). But there's more. Here are some tips to get you started. Don't be afraid, be proactive!
1. Get to know your girls.
Let’s face it. Nobody likes to do a breast self-exam. Who wants to prod around looking for something scary you hope you won’t find? This technique is being urged by doctors less often following recommendations from a U.S. Government Task Force report issued in 2009.
Instead, try self-massage, using herbal balms and oils that smell and feel good (and get the lymph circulating). Anytime you're in the bathtub, try it out. Or maybe give it a go in the shower, as you’re soaping up. Whenever. It’s not a big deal, and it’s not a search-and-destroy mission. Just check in every so often.
2. Ditch the drugstore deodorant.
The skin absorbs all of our beauty products. Major lymphatic networks reside in and around our underarms. Make SURE your deodorant is not toxic. (Yes, I know. It's so hard to find a natural one that works.) Some brands you might consider: Lavanila, Soapwalla, Pristine Beauty, Poetic Pits, Nourish—these all get good reports. Do your research, then make the switch. You might not smell like a powder-fresh spring breeze at all times, but your body will thank you in the long run.
3. Trust your intuition.
Women often find their own breast lumps, just because they had a feeling something was off. Each of us has an innate sense of what’s going on in our bodies. Heed it. If you can hear the whispers, maybe it won’t have to shout.
4. Learn about lymph.
The lymphatic system is crucial to breast health. Read up on it. Move, every day, in ways that help lymph circulate. Do self-massage and dry skin brushing. Unlike the cardiovascular system, which is powered by the heart, the lymphatic system depends upon outside forces to get a good flow going. Yoga, with its combination of muscle contractions and focused breathing, is excellent in this regard.
5. Practice yoga.
Poses that open the chest, get the arms lifted, and get your breath circulating through all the corners and crannies of the chest are great moves. Some ideas: shoulder stand, cow-face pose, bow pose, and supported backbends.
6. Consider supplements.
Vitamin D and iodine are particularly important for healthy breasts. However, both can affect optimum thyroid functioning if not taken in the proper doses. Look into it, but only under the supervision of your integrative doctor, naturopath, or nutritionist.
7. Go easy on the estrogen.
Certain environmental chemicals contain compounds, called xenoestrogens, which mimic estrogen and can disturb delicate hormone balance. These come from synthetic hormones in oral contraceptives or Hormone Replacement Therapy, commercial meat and dairy products, many plastics, and chemical cleaning supplies and pesticides. This can all contribute to a state of estrogen dominance. Estrogen causes rapid cell multiplication in breast tissue, and when it is not in proper ratio with the rest of the endocrine system, can wreak some havoc in this area. Find ways to minimize exposure to xenoestrogens.
8. Think about thermography.
The yearly mammogram for all women is losing its status as the gold standard in screening, and in fact has never been a preventer of breast cancer (prevention is actions like what are listed above; don’t rely on the false confidence of a gold star on your routine mammo). Furthermore, mammograms provide a hefty dose of radiation, right where we don’t want it (breast tissue, especially in women under 40, is particularly sensitive to radiation). No need to boycott mammograms, necessarily, just study up on recent guidelines, and look into some alternatives that might offer more benefit with less risk.
These are just a few suggestions, and there are many other things we can do. No matter what our genetic status or current level of health, we do not have to be frightened, fatalistic, or passive on this one. There are no guarantees, but for sure there are simple steps we can take to reclaim power when it comes to breast health.
Why not choose one and try it today?