Most women know that regular breast exams are important, but many of us neglect to do them. Breast exams allow us to feel out possible areas of concern so they can be addressed early. Though it can be scary, many of those lumps are actually nothing to be concerned about.
Many lumps are fluid-filled cysts, which are not cancerous, nor a risk for cancer. A cyst is a tissue sac that is filled with fluid. They are usually moveable, round lumps that may change during the menstrual cycle and sometimes appear rather suddenly.
A simple cyst can be either shallow or deep and often get larger and feel tender just before a menstrual period. Small multiple cysts are tiny cysts that can be found in groups, like a cluster of grapes, or scattered throughout the breast. Both types of cysts may be able to be moved freely under the fingers and they feel smooth and squishy. If the cysts are filled with fluid, however, they may be firm. If cysts become painful, the accumulated fluid may need to be drained with a needle.
While the exact cause of cysts is unknown, hormonal changes are likely culprits, as they commonly occur in women aged 35 to 55 years old and hormone tests often reveal high or irregular levels.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), one cause of lumps in the breast is Liver Qi stagnation. If you’ve ever seen a diagram or model of acupuncture points and pathways, then you will find that the Liver channel travels through the breasts. When the Qi that travels through this channel becomes stuck, one result is a lump.
Other signs of Liver Qi stagnation include irregular periods, depression, anxiety, irritability, pain in the side of the body, frequent sighing, a sensation of a lump in the throat, bitter taste in the mouth, digestive issues, and PMS symptoms such as breast tenderness, emotional sensitivity, irritability, and frustration.
Common causes of Liver Qi stagnation are poor diet, toxins, frequent or strong emotional upsets, and stress. As you can imagine, TCM recommends that to address the symptoms of breast cysts, it is important to eat healthy, fresh foods, detoxify the body, find healthy emotional outlets and seek counseling, get regular exercise, and manage stress. The interesting thing is that conventional treatment is very similar: reduce dietary fat consumption, get regular exercise, and manage stress.
TCM treatments of Liver Qi stagnation include acupuncture, herbs, and TCM food cures. If you find a lump in your breast, get it checked out. Then, take action and make the previously mentioned lifestyle changes and seek help from a qualified Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner.