Saturday, April 30, 2011

Bras and Fibrocystic Breast Disease

I had my first diagnostic mammogram when I was thirteen years old, a few months after I started wearing a bra. In my teens and twenties I had a lump in my breast every few years, but as I got older, I developed new cysts ever more frequently, and the pain in my breasts became worse and worse. Over the years I had a few lumps diagnosed.

The last time I had a physical breast examination, my midwife noticed I had several new lumps, and she was concerned. She referred me to a diagnostic center to get a mammogram, which was due anyway since I am in my forties. I decided I did not want yet another mammogram, or biopsy, or any other invasive diagnostic method, to find out I had developed "just" more cysts. I chose to have breast thermography instead; medical infrared imaging which detects surface heat as a byproduct of biochemical reactions. The thermographer and I talked about a holistic approach to prevent breast cancer and fibrocystic breast disease, and I searched the internet for more information.

I discovered that more than 60% of women, and most common between ages 30 - 50, have fibrocystic breast disease; painful, swollen, and lumpy breasts, especially during the days right before their period. Since this disorder is so common, some health care providers do not want to call it a "disease", and use the phrase "fibrocystic change". Although fibrocystic breast disease is very common, it is not "normal", and women need to be concerned about pain and cysts in their breasts. Large cysts have been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, and pain is a warning signal to withdraw from harmful stimuli. Normal, healthy breasts are not lumpy, and do not hurt.

According to Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer, breast disease is only a problem in cultures where women wear bras. Bras constantly compress the lymphatic vessels and restrict breast movement, which prevents the draining of the breast tissue, leading to fluid accumulation (lymphedema). This fluid accumulation leads to breast tenderness and pain, and in the end the fluid develops into cysts. The area surrounding the cyst often forms scar tissue, which is the fibrous part of the disease. Research has shown that more than 90% of fibrocystic patients improve when they stop wearing bras. In his article Prevention and Treatment of Fibrocystic Breast Disease, Ralph L. Reed, Ph.D. presents six case histories of women who found relief by going bra free. And I found many more similar stories on the web.

For many women, the easiest solution to reduce breast pain and fibrocystic lumps is going bra free, and I have started to follow this advice. I used to wear my bra from the moment I got up till the moment I went to bed. I also have a large cup size, so I had to slowly wean off my bra. Currently I wear a bra (no underwire) two to three hours a day; the time I need to pick up my kids from school and run errands. When I am home, I am bra free. Most of my cysts are already getting smaller, some I cannot even palpate anymore. My breasts feel less lumpy and I have less pain overall. In fact, now my breasts start to hurt about an hour after I put on my bra, and it is a relief to take it off again.

I am exited about my results so far, and I am looking forward to compare my next breast thermography with my baseline.

Part I - Bras and Breast Cancer
Part III - Frequently Asked Questions About Bras and Going Bra Free


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Bras and Breast Cancer

My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 51; she had a total mastectomy on one side. She passed away six years later. For more than twenty years, doctors told me that having a first-degree relative with breast cancer doubled my risk. And over the years I had several lumps diagnosed, just to be sure. Fortunately all these lumps turned out to be benign cysts.

Today doctors know that 95% of cancers develop not due to genes, but due to causes like hormone imbalances and an impaired immune system, as the result of environmental toxins and poor nutrition. I exercise regularly, I meditate, I eat cruciferous veggies, I take vitamins, I drink green tea, and I limit my intake of coffee, alcohol, and meat. I try to stay away from toxins as much as possible, but this is difficult since there are so many toxins all around us.

However, a few months ago I came across the book Dressed To Kill: The Link between Breast Cancer and Bras. The authors, Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer, studied a group of more than 4700 women, and found that women who wore their bras 24 hours per day had a 3 out of 4 chance of developing breast cancer. Women who wore their bras less than 12 hours per day had a 1 out of 152 risk, which is significantly lower. Overall, women who wear tight-fitting bras 24 hours a day are 125 times more likely to have breast cancer than women who do not wear bras at all. Their interpretation is that the constant pressure from the bra inhibits the proper functioning of the lymphatic system, which leads to a buildup of toxins in the breast tissue.

Ralph L. Reed, Ph.D. writes in his article Bras and Breast Cancer that lymphatic circulation is also highly dependent on movement. Every movement gently massages the breast and increases lymphatic flow and thus cleans the breast of toxins and wastes. Bras do not only compress the lymphatic vessels, they also restrict breast movement.

These findings make complete sense to me. We all know that if you sit or stand still for a while, your feet and ankles begin to swell. Lymphatic fluids accumulate in your feet and ankles. Once you start moving your legs and feet again, the swelling diminishes.

I cannot avoid all the environmental toxins, but I can certainly help my body to get rid of these toxins in my breast tissue by avoiding my bra as much as possible.

Part II - Bras and Fibrocystic Breast Disease
Part III - Frequently Asked Questions About Bras and Going Bra Free

Friday, April 22, 2011


Hello and welcome!

Thank you so much for visiting my brand new blog!

Since it is Earth Day today, I thought I would start with a post about recycling. I have been recycling for more than twenty years, but lately I have been putting a bit more effort into it. My kids are old enough to help, and I want to instill the habit of recycling in them as well.

For our daily recyclable waste, I put two bags in the kitchen; one for aluminum cans and plastic bottles, and one for all other recyclables like paper, other plastics, glass, etc. We take the soda cans and the plastic bottles to recycling centers to make a few extra dollars, and the rest goes into the large blue collection bin provided by our waste management company. I downloaded the latest information about what they accept for recycling, and what not, from their website, printed it out, and taped it to the wall. I was happy to see they accept many more items than a couple of years ago; weekly curbside collection is easier than having to take different recyclables to different centers.

After just a few days the kids were used to the new system. They put their old schoolwork, flyers, drawings they don't want any more, empty plastic bottles, etc. in the recycling bags. And the bags are also a reminder for me to keep aiming for zero waste.

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So far I have simply been reusing paper grocery bags, but, since these look a little "trashy", I am looking for a couple of pretty bins. Environmentally kind ones, of course.

Happy Earth Day!

PS. I would love to hear from you! Please feel free to comment on my posts, or Contact me with any thoughts or questions you may have.