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    How to Have Healthy Breasts for Life


    Know Your Risk for Breast Cancer

    Talk to your doctor about things that may put you at higher risk for the disease. For instance, your chances of getting it may go up if you smoke, drink alcohol, or have a family history of breast cancer.

    Women who don't have children, or who have them after age 30, also have a higher risk. So do women who have their first period before age 12, go through menopause later than normal, or take certain hormone drugs during menopause for longer than 5 years. 

    If you take birth control pills, it could slightly raise your breast cancer risk. Together with your doctor, you should consider all of the things that may raise your odds of getting the disease before you decide what kind of birth control to use.

    Changes When You're Pregnant or Breastfeeding

    When you get pregnant, it's normal for your breasts to get larger and more tender, for your nipples to darken and blood vessels to become more visible, and for your breast tissue to get lumpier.

    Cysts (fluid-filled sacs) and other non-cancerous tumors can form or get larger during pregnancy. "The vast majority of lumps discovered by pregnant women are not cancer," Peeke says. "But you can't rule it out for sure, so you should still mention them to your doctor."

    Your breasts will likely swell and fill with milk a few days after you give birth. This can make them feel hard and tender. Breastfeeding can ease this feeling. If you opt to bottle-feed instead, your breasts should stop making milk after a few days.

    If you are breastfeeding, you may get sore, cracked nipples or plugged milk ducts. It can lead to a painful infection called mastitis, which needs get treated with antibiotics.

    Breast Health in Your 40s and Up

    You'll notice physical changes as you get older. During menopause or the run-up to it, the glands that make milk shrink. They're replaced with new fat tissue, so your bra-cup size may go up. Your breasts may also begin to sag more.

    Your risk for breast cancer goes up as you get older, so talk to your doctor about when you should start getting screening tests called mammograms. Major health groups recommend them every 1 to 2 years for women 50 to 74, but some suggest you start at age 40 or 45.

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