Articles: Breast Health

Important news every woman should see regarding mammograms (2012): Benefits & harms from screening

Breast Health

First let me clarify that this information is supplied solely for educational purposes for the clients that have asked about this over the years. It is an important part in women’s health.

I do not massage women’s breasts as I believe it is not a necessary step for every client and does not require a professional setting and skilled touch to accomplish healthy results. There are specifically taught breast massage classes for therapists (and yes, I’ve seen the texts, read them and discussed the techniques with other therapists – but have not taken the class myself). In my profession of Massage Therapy the act of touching a woman’s breast as outlined below could also be considered illegal in Wisconsin (where I practice). Some argue it can send mixed signals to the client, but any touch could be used improperly by someone with evil intent. I would not be concerned about that, because I have long held the approach that sex is the last thing on the mind of any woman coming in for a massage and therefore should be last on my mind as well. With all the many different treatments I’ve performed over the years, and all the different bodies and body parts I was required to touch for these (applying bronzing tanner to clients was always quite an interesting service – depending on whether the client wanted or didn’t want tan lines), I have learned to approach every client with respect for their personal boundaries and comfort levels.

Therefore to help those clients who have asked, I have assembled this information from various sources and reprinted it here with permission.

~ Brian


What about Lymphatic Breast Care Massage?

Manual Lymph Drainage is an extremely powerful and very gentle modality in treating many discomforts / dysfunctions associated with the breasts:

  • Helps alleviate surgical problems; and assist with esthetic enhancements and breast implants
  • Reduction of pectoralis major tone following submuscular implant placement
  • Helps breasts to have a “natural feel” after augmentation and heal scar tissue more quickly
  • Alleviate non-malignant lumps, chronic sores and ulcerations
  • To alleviate engorgement
  • Heal the effects of nipple and breast damage
  • Relieve milk stasis
  • Improve functioning and health of the breast during and after lactation
  • Reduce mastitis
  • Premenstrual congestion
  • Shown to help alleviate painful cramps during menstruation
  • Following diagnostic procedures and recent surgeries, symptomatic
  • Tenderness and congestion related to benign conditions and changes associated with involution
  • Discomforts related to cancer treatment
  • Necessary in preventing problems associated with surgical removal of lymphatic vessels in breast surgery and mastectomies

While one in eight women will find themselves in the grasp of breast cancer during their lifetime, you don’t necessarily have to be one of them.

This information will give you some insight into how your breasts work and what you can do to keep them functioning properly.

The goal of this page is to help in the prevention of breast cancer. It doesn’t make sense to leave your health to chance. Even the Self Breast Exam is designed to help you after you get a tumor or breast cancer. This is not to say that you shouldn’t regularly check yourself for lumps.

Early detection does greatly increase your odds of surviving cancer. However, waiting for cancer rather than actively participating in its avoidance can also be detrimental to your health.

Your breasts are essentially structures made up of fat and gland, mounted to the female’s chest wall with a delicate system of ligaments. The circulation in the breast is much the same as the rest of the body consisting of arteries, veins, and lymphatic vessels.

In short, the arteries bring fresh blood to the cells carrying along with it the nutrition that the breast and its tissues need for proper health. The veins bring the blood back from the cells along with cellular waste and toxins. The lymphatics are designed to return the toxin and other waste materials that lie in the intercellular fluid between the cells.

Toxins are believed by many to be the local beginnings of cancerous tissue.

It is imperative that these toxins be continually removed through the body’s veins and lymphatic vessels. When these toxins are unable to exit the body properly, the possibility of cancer increases.

A study* of 4,700 women found that women who wore brassieres (especially under wire) had an increased chance of acquiring breast cancer. It is very possible that the constant pressure that the bra puts on the breast is limiting the flow of toxins that need to be released, resulting in the increased cancer rate.

Any more than a gentle amount of pressure can flatten the lymphatic vessel and stop the toxic flow from the breast.

The Study found the highest rate of breast cancer in those who wore bras 24 hours a day, and the lowest rate in those who never wore bras. The study suggested that women should wear their bra less than 12 hours a day.

* Singer, Sydney Ross. Dressed to Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras, Garden City Park, NY: Avery Pub. Group, 1995

You may also wish to visit komotv.com to see a well done news story about a lesser known form of breast cancer. You can also see komen.org The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation website for further information, especially about care and detection techniques all women should perform starting by age twenty. Remember, a breast massage is NOT the same as a breast exam. Again, refer to the Komen website for detailed information on breast self-exam – link located on their home page.

For more reading on massage specifically for breasts, see this article from Massage & Bodywork Magazine.


The Four-Step, Self-Care “Lymphatic Breast Care Massage” Routine

Now that you have a better understanding of your breasts, it is important that you apply this knowledge to your health.

The four-step procedure shown on this page will give you a simple massage technique that can be done, by yourself, in the privacy of your own home. Although almost any gentle massage technique will be of benefit, these four techniques should be a part of your personal regimen.

By far the easiest, (and most convenient), time to perform Lymphatic Breast Care Massage…is in the shower. The soap on the body enables your hands to slide very lightly over the skin and Breast Tissue. This provides a private as well as convenient time for you to perform the Self-care routine.

The Routine

Step One: Use your fingers to gently smooth away from the nipple. These movements travel from the nipple and directly away using no more pressure than what you would apply to your eyelid. Any more pressure would flatten the lymphatic vessel and stop the flow of toxins and fluids. Also, make this stroke slow, not fast, for it to be effective.

NOTE: Lymphatic strokes should begin in the area that you intend to move the lymph into. This empties the area so your next strokes can move lymph into that area, and so on.

  • So in picture #1, you should begin the stroke in the axillary (armpit) region…stroking from the breast to the armpit… then gradually move toward the nipple, continuing to stroke toward the armpit.
  • Next, start just blow the collar bone and stroke in a direction that takes you from your breast back toward the collar bone. Continue stroking in this manner as you work toward the nipple.
  • Then, start on the breast side of the sternum and stroke from the breast to the sternum. Continue stroking in this manner as you work toward the nipple.
  • Next, start just below the breast. These strokes will be in a downward stroke toward the rib just under the breast. Continue stroking from the breast to the rib as you gradually work toward the nipple.
  • Finally, start on the rib cage just under the armpit. Stroke up toward the armpit and work your way down along the side of the breast, continuing to stroke up toward the armpit.
  • In all these lymphatic drainage strokes, the nipple will be the last area that you work. This will also be the “longest” of the strokes, going from the nipple to the area that you began.
  • Strokes should be very light, (about the weight of a nickel…or like your are petting a cat or smaller animal), as well as slow.

Step Two: Gently massage the breast with a kneading-like motion, using lifting and pressing movements. You should never cause pain. This stoke works the circulatory system of the breasts, so it can be more firm that the lymphatic strokes, but still should be gentle.

Step Three: Slowly and carefully use your hands to twist the breast in a clock-wise and counterclockwise direction, being careful not to put too much tension on the breast. Focus on the areas of the breast where the under-wire of your bra compresses on the breast tissue. This stroke will help to break up scars that may be forming in the connective tissue of the breasts that wearing a bra may have caused. Again, this stroke should be done in a way that does not cause pain.

Step Four: Use both hands as shown to apply several, moderate pressure, compressions to move out more fluids. This stroke is a compression stroke and can be done with one hand as well. Just place the palm of your hand directly over the nipple and perform a light pumping motion by pressing the palm of your hand toward the chest wall. Again, this should not be done in a way that causes any pain.


Breast Massage Indications and Contraindications

(When to massage and when not to massage your breasts)

Indications (massage = yes)

  • congestion, edema, lymph edema
  • painful breasts
  • discomforts of pregnancy, breastfeeding, weaning
  • general drainage problems (family tendency, large breasts, etc.)
  • premenstrual congestion
  • tenderness and congestion related to benign conditions and changes associated with involution
  • following diagnostic procedures and recent surgeries, symptomatic
  • relief and promotion of good quality scarring
  • breast trauma
  • restrictive, adhered, poorly oriented scars
  • reduction of pectoralis major tone following submuscular implant placement
  • discomforts related to cancer treatment
  • integration of post-surgical changes, helping the client become comfortable with her body

Contraindications (massage = no)

  • lactational mastitis, post-surgical infection, current active infection for any reason
  • specific on-site work at the location of an undiagnosed lump
  • specific on-site work at the location of an abscess
  • use of closed capsulotomy, or any other forceful technique attempting to reduce implant-related contracture
  • direct pressure on an implanted breast manifesting a distorted contour
  • implanted breast with submuscular placement manifesting lateral breast and subscapular pain (possible serratus anterior rupture)

Additional Uses for Lymphatic Breast Care Massage

Colds and Flu

Note: Although this article was mainly about Cancer…It should be noted that Lymphatic Breast Massage is also very effective for Colds and Flu.

Many women have relapses as opposed to men with the same viral or bacterial infection. It is believed that this is caused from the wearing of a bra which has restricted the elimination of Lymph from the breasts.

When women become active again after their bout with the Cold or Flu, the movement of the breasts causes the Lymph that has not been cleansed to enter into the body…causing the relapse.

Breast Augmentation

Lymphatic Breast Care Massage is also very effective in preventing / eliminating fibroid (fibrotic) tissue after Breast Augmentation. It helps prevent capsular contracture which can eliminate the need for additional surgery.

If infection has occurred, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics, but Lymphatic Drainage will help eliminate the infection and the pain associated with it more quickly.

The most dramatic effects of Lymphatic Breast Care Massage after Breast Augmentation Surgery is the elimination of swelling, pain, scars and adhesions.

Although the scars will fade “almost completely” by themselves within a year, Lymphatic Breast Massage greatly speeds the process.

It also prevents / reduces the scar tissue and adhesions in the breast tissue that you can’t see, (but can definitely feel), underneath the surface of the skin.

Lymphatic Breast Massage will leave your breasts softer and with a more natural feel.