Breast Health: Myths & Misconceptions
People tend to talk about breast health only in the context of breast cancer prevention, and there's a good reason for that. According to the American Cancer Society, about 13 percent of women will develop breast cancer at some point in their life, and the earlier it's detected, the higher the chances of successful treatment.
But overall breast wellness is vital to maintaining overall health, too. So here, we'll look at five common myths about breast health and discuss what the facts actually reveal.
Myth: All breast lumps are cancerous.
Reality: Finding a lump in your breast is never a good feeling, but before you panic, remember that most breast lumps turn out not to be cancerous. Even so, it's essential to make a doctor's appointment right away to get it checked out, just to be sure. In many cases, breast lumps end up being harmless cysts, fibrous connective tissue, a prominent lobule of subcutaneous fat tissue, or a benign lesion. Ultimately, the only way to find out whether a breast lump is benign or malignant is to have it examined by your doctor.
Myth: If I have small breasts, I won't be able to produce much milk.
Reality: This is completely untrue. Every woman's breasts get larger with pregnancy and breastfeeding, and that goes for women with small breasts, as well. According to medical experts, women with small breasts can produce just as much milk as women with larger breasts. Breasts are a combination of fat tissue, mammary glands/tissue and underlying pectoralis muscle. Women with smaller breasts may have less fat tissue surrounding their mammary glands/tissue, which are actually responsible for producing and storing milk. Regardless of breast size, it's not uncommon for women to experience difficulties during breastfeeding. If this happens to you, be sure to reach out to your doctor or midwife for advice.
Myth: Women don't experience nipple chafing.
Reality: Women can experience nipple chafing, just as men sometimes do. Particularly sensitive nipples can become chapped when they rub against clothes or other materials, and when this happens, the nipples may get dry and become painful. Nipple chafing is common among athletes, but can also occur during everyday activities, including sexual activity.
Drugstore powders and balms can help relieve nipple chafing. It's important to note, however, that if you experience skin changes such as scaling, dimpling or nipple discharge that isn't breast milk, you should talk to your doctor right away, because these symptoms could be signs of certain types of breast cancer. You should also consult your doctor if your nipple chafing doesn't go away once you stop the activity that caused it or after using a home treatment.
Myth: Breastfeeding will make my breasts sag.
Reality: Medical research has shown, despite the longstanding nature of this myth, that there is no correlation for breastfeeding and sagging breasts. According to the Mayo Clinic, breastfeeding doesn't negatively affect breast shape or volume. In fact, many women find that their breasts go back to how they were pre-pregnancy a few months after breastfeeding. Ultimately, age is what causes breasts to lose their shape and density over time.
Myth: Sleeping in a bra will give me breast cancer.
Reality: This age-old wives' tale simply isn't true. As the myth goes, wearing a bra to sleep—particularly an underwire bra—will block the flow of lymph fluid out of the breast, thereby allowing breast cancer-causing toxins to pool in the breast tissue. Fortunately, this is not founded in fact. No studies have found a link between wearing a bra and increased risk of breast cancer. So even though sleeping in your bra isn't the comfiest thing to do, at least it won't cause cancer.