taking care of your breast


Taking care of your breasts in your 30s

Typically, in your 30s your breasts still have good elasticity and tone. " If you have kids now, you'll notice changes post-baby. While your breasts get bigger during the actual pregnancy, you may, alas, permanently go down a half-cup or cup from your original size once you've given birth and/or breast-fed. (This phenomenon is called breast involution, a process where the milk-making system inside the breast shrinks because it's not needed anymore.)

Your most common concern:

Breast pain. Many women in their 30s have fibrocystic breasts, a term for tender lumpiness resulting from hormonal changes. Although uncomfortable, the condition is benign and doesn't increase breast-cancer risk. By cutting back on caffeine, you can alleviate some of the pain, as may taking evening primrose oil (1.3 grams orally twice a day), a natural form of fatty acid believed to interfere with the body's production of prostaglandins (inflammatory compounds that trigger breast pain). For severe cases, doctors sometimes prescribe Danazol, a steroid derivative that decreases levels of the reproductive hormones FSH and LH, or tamoxifen, a breast-cancer drug that helps relieve breast pain by blocking estrogen receptors, thus preventing estrogen's effect on breast tissue. 

Best breast-cancer-screening strategy:

Talk to your doctor. Discuss having a baseline mammogram between the ages of 35 and 40. You should also get a yearly breast exam from your gynecologist and do monthly breast self-exams. Although the American Cancer Society issued new guidelines for breast cancer screening in 2003, making self-exams optional, experts say they're still a must-do. "The more you examine your breasts, the more likely you are to differentiate between normal hormone-related bumpiness and a potentially precancerous growth," Smith says.

A woman who is at higher risk (that is, one who has a family history with one or more first-degree relatives with breast or ovarian cancer) should begin having regular annual mammograms at least 10 years earlier than the age at which her relative got her cancer diagnosis. So, if your mom found out she had cancer at age 45, you should start having mammograms done at age 35. Also, if you have a strong family history of the disease (two or more first-degree family members like a mother or grandmother), ask your doctor about receiving genetic screening to see if you're a carrier of the BRCA gene and ask about an annual MRI.

Best breast-saving move:

If you do exercises, always wear a good exercise bra, this will help stave off future droopiness. When you run sans bra, your breasts bounce up and down 2.6 inches for every step you take, according to a recent study done at the University of Portsmouth in England. The reassuring news: The study also found that wearing a sports bra reduces bounce by 74 percent. Do a bounce test when trying on exercise bras, if your breasts move when you jump up and down, you're not getting enough support.

Breast cancer risk:

Your breast-cancer risk is still very low -- only 5 percent of all cases occur in women younger than 40, according to the ACS. (Your risk during this decade is about 1 in 233, according to the National Cancer Institute.) One way to lower your odds even further: breast-feed. It protects older moms against the increased risk of breast cancer noted for women who have their first child after age 25, according to a recent University of Southern California study.