It always amazes me how little women know about their own breasts, despite the fact that they are an important part of how we perceive our bodies.
Very often, I find that what women do know about breasts is shrouded in myths and misconceptions.
For example, some women get too preoccupied with how their breasts look and are always yearning for “perfect” breasts.
Because of this preoccupation with the cosmetic aspect, these women neglect the health and care of their breasts.
Lastly, many women believe that there are only two kinds of breasts: big or small.
In this article, I will describe seven types of breast shapes, and what you can do to maintain good breast health.
Seven types of breasts
Believe it or not, all the different types of breasts described below are perfectly normal!
These breasts are narrow at the top and significantly fuller toward the bottom. They tend to be quite heavy and require the right support with full-coverage bras.
• Tear drop
These breasts are similar to the bell-shaped breasts in that they widen towards the bottom. The difference is that the slope is much gentler and resembles a tear drop.
These are generally skinny breasts with less breast tissue. The shape is a little wider at the top and narrower at the bottom. These breasts tend to be relatively small in cup size.
The breasts slope down gently from the top out to either side. In some women, the nipples point in opposite directions, while in others, the general shape of the breasts gravitate away from the centre of their chest.
• Side set
A variation to the East-West shape where there is a wide space between the breasts. However, the nipples point a little more forward compared to the East-West shape. These breasts also tend to be fuller than the East-West shape.
Have you ever thought your breasts were a little lopsided, i.e. one was bigger than the other? The difference can be minor in some women, and more dramatic in others. Asymmetry is very normal in most women.
These are the so-called big breasts, which are equally full on top and at the bottom. This shape is sometimes due to surgical enhancement of the breasts, though not always.
Care for your breasts
Breast cancer is the number one cancer among women in Malaysia.
Adopting healthy habits to protect your breasts can help to reduce your risk of developing cancer.
• Maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight or obese can increase your risk of developing breast cancer. It may also reduce your risk of having a good survival rate.
• Exercise and be active
Being fit and active may help prevent breast cancer, as it boosts your immune system, prevents obesity and reduces the levels of oestrogen and insulin in the body. Get in 45 minutes to one hour of exercise five days a week.
• Eat more vegetables
It’s not just about eating your five servings of vegetables a day, but also about getting more of the cancer-protective veggies. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and kale, are believed to help prevent cancer cells from multiplying.
• Drink less alcohol
When it comes to alcohol, cut down or cut out. Even two drinks a day could increase breast cancer risk by 21%.
Fresh grapes, however, contain an antioxidant called resveratrol, which is believed to help reduce oestrogen levels and lower cancer risk.
• Learn your family history
Genetic inheritance is a factor in about 15% of breast cancer cases.
If you have a first-degree relative (e.g. mother, sister or daughter) with breast cancer, your lifetime risk doubles.
If you have two first-degree relatives with the condition, your risk increases by five times.
• Get regular checkups
Apart from doing self breast examination at home regularly, you should see your doctor for breast examinations at least once every three years.
After the age of 40, you should go for breast examinations and mammograms every year.
If you have a family history of breast cancer, as described above, you should begin screening 10 years prior to your relative’s age of being diagnosed with the disease.
• Consider genetic testing
With advancements in genetic testing, you can now find out whether you carry the BRCA mutation in your genes, which increases your risk of developing breast cancer.
However, not all women need to test for the BRCA gene – you should only consider it if you have a family history of both breast and ovarian cancer among your family members.
You must seek advice from a doctor familiar with genetic profiling or a genetic counsellor first, instead of going for a test on your own, as there are important decisions to be made after you get the results.