If left untreated, this trauma can progress to necrosis, when fatty tissue from the bruise and swelling loses its blood supply and dies to form a hard lump. While fat necrosis does not increase the risk of breast cancer, it mimics the disease in clinical trials.
“It’s very difficult to distinguish breast cancer and trauma from an injury, so women need to report these injuries so we can follow them up medically to make sure the tissue returns to normal and that something down the road isn’t misinterpreted for breast cancer.” McGhee says.
Although research remains thin, breast protection is already here. Founded by Australian Suzie Betts, Boob Armor consists of inserts made of just 2mm thick polyethylene that can be inserted into a sports bra. Betts describes it as a “modern day mouth guard”, claiming it is no different from the role played by shin guards in football or protectors worn over the crotch in cricket.
Betts’ interest in breast injuries was sparked after discovering benign lumps in her own breast. “When I went to the breast cancer surgeon, I was asked, ‘Have you ever suffered trauma to your breast?’ I thought, “That’s a weird thing to ask.” I played tennis and netball growing up. I didn’t do contact sports. I went home and asked my daughters — who both play Aussie rules and basketball — if they ever had chest pains. were beaten. And they said, ‘What a stupid question, Mom, of course we have’.”
Appalled by her daughters’ nonchalant attitude to breast injuries — and after reviewing existing research — Betts wanted to give women the confidence to exercise without fear of injuring their breasts. Now one of 3,000 wearing Boob Armor, Anderson says, “If I get tackled or come into contact, I can’t feel anything. I feel really confident and I feel like I’m playing a lot better because of it.”