Feminity in difficult times

The breast is an essential element of female identity and attractivity. It is able to produce breast milk, an essential nutrient for the survival of newborns, and it is thus not surprising that the female breast has been seen as a life-providing organ throughout human history. The breast is, however, also the part of the female body that is associated with pleasure and longing, and therefore plays an essential role for female self-perception and self-esteem. Advertisement and fashion trends suggest an ever changing ideal in the form and size which are hardly ever achievable, and that lead to the fact that most women are dissatisfied with their breast.

Small or large, soft or firm – the external appearance of the female breast is as individual as the women to whom it belongs. The inner structure, however, is fairly similar in all women: breast tissue is essentially made up of numerous glands which are embedded into a network of connective and fatty tissue. Being a hormone-dependent tissue, it is subjected to repetitive remodelling processes. And it is mainly the remodelling processes which make this tissue vulnerable to a number of diseases.

Although 3 out of 4 breast alterations are benign in nature, it is of key importance to identify malignant alterations quickly and reliably, because early detection can be life-saving. Regular self exams and annual check-ups by a certified physician are as important as the participation in early detection breast screening programmes. After all, breast cancer is the single most important malignant disease for women in the industrialized world, and one out of 9 women will eventually develop breast cancer in her life.

While the exact causes are still unknown, hereditary factors, individual biological factors, family planning and life style are now considered to be major contributors to breast cancer development. In the absence of specific pills or diets that could be are able to prevent this disease, maintaining a normal body weight and living a healthy life is probably the most effective way to lower the individual breast cancer risk – and to feel well at the same time.

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