Can Breast Massage Prevent Breast Cancer?
Massage to stave off illness showcases fascinating conflicts and potential in blending Eastern and Western medicine. While Western medications are seen as more efficient and effective, incorporating Eastern medicine's understanding of balance within the body can lower the risk factors behind the illnesses Western drugs treat. Despite clearing up one issue, Western pharmaceuticals can wreak havoc on other parts of the body, causing dangerous side effects. Because Eastern therapeutics are difficult to prove, Westerners have a tendency to mysticize the techniques to such an abstract caricature that the underlying logic is forgotten and only superficial understanding remains.
These culturally existential questions are relevant to breast health because the greatest benefits breast massage offers, in addition to relaxation, is encouraging lymphatic circulation. The lymphatic system is a form of circulation within the body that runs largely parallel to the cardiovascular system, or blood system.
If your cardiovascular system is the subway by which oxygen travels to all of the body's cells, then the lymphatic system is your body's sewer. Lymph is a clear fluid high in white blood cells, the immune system's most important tool.
Propelled by your heart's beating, the lymphatic system purges the body of toxins and waste. It's an essential but high-risk job that leaves certain nodes exposed to large levels of toxins and subsequently susceptible to cancer, especially those glands clustered around the throat, armpits and groin. The most aggressive breast cancer cases occur when the unhealthy cells spread from the original tumor to the lymph nodes, causing inflammation.
Ayurveda is a holistic preventive form of Indian medicine that employs Abhyanga, a style of warm oil massage with stress-relieving benefits. Similarly, it may be recommended to recovering cancer patients that they practice manual lymph drainage, a gentle form of massage meant to redistribute backed-up fluids away from afflicted limbs.
"Massage reduces stress and there's a theory that breast cancer results from elevated cortisol levels [stress]," stated Mary Gambotto, a Colorado-based perinatal nurse practitioner (PNNP) and breast cancer survivor. "A big nursing study years ago showed that nurses who worked nights had elevated rates of cancer. In that sense, massage will have a generally beneficial effect, but it isn't a specific preventive measure for breast cancer," she concluded.
Gambotto makes an important point on the interdependent nature of health. While another benefit of breast massage is stimulating lactation and producing more nutrient-rich milk, breastfeeding, in general, lowers a woman's risk of developing breast cancer.
Because Eastern therapeutics are difficult to prove, Westerners have a tendency to mysticize the techniques to such an abstract caricature that the underlying logic is forgotten and only superficial understanding remains.
A person who has avoided exacerbated levels of stress may also be more conscious of dietary and lifestyle choices, so massages are more a happy byproduct of their healthy mindset. On the other hand, a person who's avoided interacting with their body could benefit from massage on a full-body level that happens to aid their breast health. Correlation is not causation, but anything associated with lower levels of cancer is probably good to implement into your day.
As a supplement to regular mammograms, breast massages, whether completed at home or by professionals, certainly won't hurt. One-third of all cancer cases in women will be mammary-related, and women in the United States have a 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer. Of those cases, many will be detected through at-home exams.
Besides relaxation and circulation, breast massage can foster self-intimacy. Time spent honoring yourself is never time wasted. The breasts are one of the most sexualized features, and there's nothing wrong with that so long as the person attached to those breasts has a say in it.
Simply put, how you feel about your breasts is more important than what anyone else thinks (besides your OB-GYN, but that's different). And if breast massage deepens positive feelings in relation to your body, that's its own health benefit.