being good to your boobs, supporting the girls...
Nearly every day, I talk about breasts: tatas, hooters, boobs, you name it - I’ve heard it. As a plastic surgeon, it is a privilege to meet these strong women and help them feel more confident about themselves, whether we are making smaller ones bigger, bigger ones smaller, uneven ones more symmetric, droopy ones perkier, or reconstructing new ones.
But there are some basics to breast health that all women can benefit from, regardless of whether or not surgery may be something they may one day consider.
First and foremost: Know your breasts.
Breast self-exams may be a relic from seventh-grade health class, as some recent studies have shown no difference in breast cancer mortality(1). But women’s health and breast cancer organizations still recommend that women become familiar with their own anatomy. If something looks or feels different (like a new lump, nipple discharge, or changes in the way the skin looks), statistically speaking it is probably benign (not cancerous), but should be checked out by your primary care provider.
Same goes for mammograms, all you ladies out there of a certain age. Traditionally mammograms have been recommended yearly for women once they turn 40, if they are “low risk” (no immediate relatives with a history of breast cancer or BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation); but a recent spate of screening guidelines (slightly different starting ages and frequency of testing) can make the situation a little murky. Again, this is an important thing to check in with your primary care provider about - when should I get my first mammogram and how frequently do I need to have a follow up study?
It also makes sense to stay active and healthy, and for this, the girls need support.
We have all seen the statistics declaring that over 80% (!!!) of us are wearing the wrong size bra(2), which may be uncomfortable for everyday activities, and perhaps disastrous for athletic endeavors(3).
The lesson here? Find bras that fit you (or go without, if you recall the “results” of the French “study” a few years ago) - this means they are comfortable, with nothing bulging out, creeping up, or digging in. Bra sizing and fit differ from brand to brand (and sometimes even bra to bra), so it requires some fortitude and perseverance to find what works for you. With the tremendous range of retail available now, even tough-to-find sizes are easier to get, and there are finally “nude” colored bras for the rest of us.
Also keep in mind that your bra size may change several times throughout your life. If you were a 32C in college, two jobs, a few kids, and a decade or two later, you may find that a different brand, band and/or cup size fits you better now.
Certified bra fitters exist and can be a tremendous help - Nordstrom is often recommended, and some locations even allow you to schedule appointments. Specialty lingerie stores also tend to have extremely experienced fitters who can measure and recommend a good brand for your size and shape. We also live in the age of the internet and technology - there are actually apps for that.
Final tip for taking care today? You’ve heard it before. Wear sunscreen.
1. Kosters JP and Gotzsche PC. Regular self-examination or clinical examination for early detection of breast cancer. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2003;(2):CD003373.
2. McGhee, Deirdre E. and Steele, Julie R. Optimising breast support in female patients through correct bra fit. A cross-sectional study. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. November 2010; Volume 13, Issue 6, 568-572.
3. McGhee, Deidre E. and Steele, Julie R. Breast Elevation and Compression Decrease Exercise-Induced Breast Discomfort. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. July 2010; Volume 42, Issue 7, 1333-1338.
By Dr. Angeline Lim of Duet Plastic Surgery - Expert Plastic Surgeons
Angeline Lim, M.D. and Jennifer Weintraub, M.D. are the board-certified plastic surgeons of Duet Plastic Surgery, a boutique-style practice in Palo Alto, California. When not helping her patients navigate through their health and beauty journeys, Dr. Lim may be found curled up with a good book or two (latest reads: Six-Four by Hideo Yokoyama and The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy).