They give women their unique shapes. They provide sexual pleasure. They deliver life-sustaining milk to their babies.
Some women are completely comfortable with their breasts, others aren’t. They worry that their breasts are too big or too small, sit too high or hang too low, are lopsided, or aren’t as firm as they once were. Regardless of size or shape, all women want healthy breasts for a lifetime.
Five ways to keep breasts healthy include maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, limiting alcohol (no more than one drink a day), not smoking, and regularly performing breast self-exams.
Among younger women, common breast problems include fibrocystic breast disease, a noncancerous condition characterized by breast pain, cysts, and lumps); and fibroadenomas, small bumps of fibrous and glandular tissue that can be painful.
For older women, the concern is more likely to be breast cancer. About 1 in 8 (12%) of women living in the United States will develop breast cancer over the course of their lifetimes. Each year, about 300,000 American women are diagnosed with some form of breast cancer, and about 40,000 die of it.
Breast cancer can often be successfully treated, especially if it is detected early. That’s why women are urged to check their breasts at home, and to have routine mammograms beginning at age 50 (or earlier for women at high risk for developing breast cancer).