What and Why?
There is very little behind the nipples of either boys or girls and nothing to distinguish them until pubescence, when breast tissue develops in both sexes. This may not happen on both sides at once and can be very tender and lumpy for a few months, resembling an abscess or tumour. It is a great relief to realise the truth, even though the tenderness may make contact sports and even heavy clothing very uncomfortable for several months.
Most of a young woman’s breast is fat, formed around rudimentary glandular tissue. That is in principle a series of tubular passages arranged round your nipple like the spokes of a wheel. Each tube is highly tortuous and ranges through a segment of your breast that is shaped like a slice of cake, centring on your nipple. The segments under your armpit extend up into it so that your breast is comma-shaped, not circular. Every time you ovulate your body begins to prepare for a pregnancy that seldom comes. In your breast the circulation to each tubular segment gets richer and the tube dilates and twists in an even more elaborate fashion. Yet within two weeks you are dismantling these preparations. This wasteful monthly cycle of activation and de-activation may be repeated five hundred times in your life, and gives plenty of scope for ageing and mistakes — especially in a world with so many chemical pollutants that imitate oestrogen. Cysts form easily, in small culs de sac of glandular tubing whose necks shut off although their secretory cells have not shut down.
Secretions then accumulate in the second half of each monthly cycle and cannot get away. In general, women with fuller breast development are more liable to the repeated heavy engorgement that strains your elastic ligaments, eventually making them slacker and more pendulous. Pregnancy changes your breasts most radically of all. The glandular segments expand enormously and the fat recedes to make space for its tightly packed convolutions. Nevertheless the gland increases considerably in size, and so do its blood vessels. When lactation begins a few days after your baby is born, your breasts at last come into their own. For the next year or so the glandular tissue will turn over huge quantities of nutrient fluid, each cell engorging between feeds and emptying promptly in response to suckling. It is correspondingly vulnerable to excesses of food and waste acids in your blood, which easily stagnates in bloated vessels (see Arthritis & Rheumatism and Migraine). This unbalances milk production and flow through the cells and tubes of your breast, which become congested and liable to obstructive kinks. The consequent back-pressure and engorgement can disorganize whole segments of your breast with cystic swellings you can feel for the rest of your life. When this hectic activity subsides the fat does not return for some years, leaving your breasts flatter and more nodular than before. But several healthy and prolonged lactations leave them less liable to cancer, whereas suppressed lactations and oral contraception frustrate their purpose and make mischief considerably more likely.
What can I do?
Advice to maintain and maximise health
1. If your food is faulty your breasts suffer for it monthly when you are not pregnant and daily when you are. For a breast problem of any kind go straight on the diet for health (see also the Diet Based on Vegetables): if it is bad enough, use the more drastic special diet for cleansing throughout at least one periodic cycle. Avoid especially coffee, strong tea, smoking or nicotine chewing gum and lots of cola or chocolate.
2. Modest supplements of Vitamin E (200IU twice daily) are helpful for simple cysts in your breasts, but only use it once your doctor has ruled out cancer. Better than that, if you are in your thirties or beyond, is to supplement with progesterone.
3. Never leave a hot bath without splashing your breasts thoroughly with cold water. This tightens their blood vessels and tubular glands, making congestion and obstructive kinking much less likely. This habit protects you powerfully against premenstrual tenderness each month and slows down or even stops the gradual accumulation of breast lumps throughout your fertile life.
4. Leave your breasts unclothed for five minutes daily. Wash them with tepid water or brush them lightly but briskly with a dry towel or soft brush. Stroke them gently from the periphery towards the nipple.
5. Let no debris accumulate in crevices of your nipples and massage them lightly to keep them supple. If they erect inwards, reverse this sometimes with gentle peripheral pressure. Use of breast shells for a few monthly cycles will correct inverted nipples permanently: they are obtainable from chemists with or without a prescription.
6. After each period, when ordinary lumps are least conspicuous, watch in a mirror how your naked breasts lift as you raise your arms above your head. Then feel for lumps with the flat or your hand — the tips of your fingers are too sensitive. Show any puckering, distortion, lumps or new asymmetry to your doctor.
7. Engorgement is best attended to by contrast bathing in your bath or shower. Sprinkle or immerse the breast in hot water for three minutes, then apply a very cold pack for half a minute. This can be a cloth wrung out under the cold tap, or even a few ice cubes wrapped in a cold damp cloth. This cycle can be repeated several times, always ending with cold. Before re-applying heat, stroke the engorged segment gently several times from its periphery towards the nipple. Wipe off surplus water with your fingers and allow the breast to dry by evaporation while you dress the rest of you. Support it with an ample and well-braced bra. If your problem is acute you can usefully repeat this every two hours.
8. If you are lactating and become engorged, contrast bathe before each feed. Finish the bath with a long ice pack to numb the anticipated pain. At all costs keep on feeding your baby — things only get worse if you stop.
9. Prevent chewing of your nipple by filling your baby's mouth with it; little or no dark skin should show. Treat any nipple sores or cracks with Calendula or Witch Hazel (Hamamelis) Ointment; avoid antiseptics unless the cracks actually get infected.