October marks breast cancer awareness month, and with doctors and organizations raising awareness by talking about what breast cancer is and how it’s diagnosed and treated, there’s no better time to learn how to spot what’s normal (and abnormal) for your boobs.
Your cycle and the symptoms you experience during it are pretty personal to you. No two people are the same. You might notice some changes to your boobs as the hormones estrogen and progesterone fluctuate. They might look and feel different at certain times. Getting familiar with what’s normal for you is a fundamental step in self-care and looking after your health. It’s called breast self-awareness.
Before we get into what breast self-awareness means, please remember that hearing the word “cancer” can be really scary. If you or someone you know has been affected by it, then it can also make it a tough topic to talk about. Try to be gentle with yourself. It’s also worth noting that as we have learned more about breast cancer, how to detect it earlier, and how to treat it better, breast cancer survival rates have increased significantly.
Here are some things to know about breast cancer, plus four easy ways to understand what’s normal for your boobs.
What is breast cancer?
You might have heard of breast cancer and know some of the signs of it but not be totally sure what it actually is. Like the rest of your body, your breasts are made up of cells. If these cells multiply very quickly, then they can form tumors. These abnormal cells might begin to grow in different parts of your breasts, including your:
- Lobules: These are the small sections within your breasts where milk is produced.
- Mammary or milk ducts: These are small tubes that carry milk from your lobules to your nipple.
While experts still aren’t totally sure what triggers your normal cells to grow rapidly and become cancerous, breast cancer has been linked to a few risk factors, including:
- Your family history: If someone in your family has had breast cancer, then you may be at a greater risk of developing it.
- Genetic mutations: Experts have identified that certain genetic mutations can be linked to breast cancer. The two most common ones are within the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.
- Smoking: Tobacco in cigarettes has been linked to lots of different types of cancers.
- Age: You may be at a greater risk of developing breast cancer if you’re over the age of 50.
While these factors have been linked to breast cancer, it’s really important to remember that there’s no one cause of breast cancer, and sometimes it isn’t caused by any of the risk factors mentioned above. In fact, it’s most likely to be caused by a combination of risk factors. If you’re ever worried or have questions about your risk of developing breast cancer, then the best thing to do is reach out to your doctor. They will be able to walk you through any signs and symptoms and support you. Similarly, knowing what’s normal for your body and building your breast self-awareness will help you spot changes early on.