Twin Signals: What Your Breasts Say About Your Health

Dr. Humaira Zulfiqar

3 min read

Every part of our body has a story to tell. From our eyes and teeth to our skin and body hair, each gives off telltale signs on the internal state of affairs, and our breasts do much the same. However, most either ignore these changes, or read too much into them. So here is a doctor’s guide on what breast signs about physical health mean.

1- Size

Normal: Since breasts are chiefly composed of fat cells and glandular tissue, weight fluctuations can affect breast size, i.e. they grow larger and smaller with weight gain and loss, respectively.

Similarly, starting or suddenly stopping birth control medication can increase and reduce breast size due to estrogen fluctuations, as can the menstrual cycle in some women.

Moreover, a larger breast size may also indicate pregnancy, when the body begins preparing the milk ducts for breastfeeding, while a smaller size might forecast impending menopause.

Not Normal: Shrinkage occurring simultaneously with sudden acne, hair loss, and facial hair could be a sign of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), while unexplained weight loss and breast size reduction might signal hyperthyroidism.

Also, while it is normal to have one breast bigger than the other, you have to look out for anything out of the usual for you. If you see any swellings or extraordinary change in the size of either breast, get it looked at by a breast surgeon in Islamabad

2- Shape

Normal: The combined effect of gravity and breastfeeding loosens and stretches the ligaments and connective tissues in the breasts over time, making multiple shape changes and the ‘droop’ inevitable. Hence, the only solutions are to wear good supportive bras and doing pectoral exercises to ensure shapelier breasts later in life.

Not Normal: While minor variations in shape and size are completely normal, one breast being significantly larger or different than the other might indicate a cancerous tumor.

3- Lumps and Bumps

Normal: If you’re menstruating, mid-to-large bumps underneath the skin are usually benign cysts that fill with fluid, particularly pre-period, hence the pain. Similarly, small pimple-like bumps on the areolas (the brown areas encircling the nipples) are simply the ends of milk ducts that protrude during menstruation.

Not Normal: One large bump on an areola, or breasts that suddenly feel rough like orange peels along with a hardened nipple and areola might indicate breast cancer.

Also, some breast are lumpier than others. It’s normal for them to acquire new lumps which are not problematic. However, there is always the possibility of a new lump being cancerous. Hence, it is better to get them checked  by a healthcare professional at the earliest. 

4- Pain

Normal: Pain in both breasts is often due to excess caffeine intake, mild trauma to the chest due to strenuous exercise or bumping into something, iron and thyroid hormone deficiency, or PMS-induced hormonal changes.

Not Normal:While regularly carrying heavy bags on one side can aggravate a breast, pain on one side may also indicate a cancerous tumor. Any other pain that does not die down or stays throughout your menstrual cycle should be check by a doctor. 

5- Nipple Discharge and Breast Hair

Normal: The breasts continue to discharge milk up to 2 years after breastfeeding. Moreover, such discharge from both nipples also sometimes follows sexual stimulation, may be a result of taking certain antidepressants, or may indicate pregnancy. Similarly, exposure to testosterone cream or gel can increase hair growth over the breasts, among other areas.

Not Normal: A bloody discharge presents two possibilities: a benign tumour (Papilloma) or a cancerous tumour, while a milky discharge may sometimes indicate hypothyroidism. Similarly, a sudden increase in breast hair may also indicate PCOS.

Also, breast discharge that takes place only in one breast and has a stench or has blood in it, is a cause of concern which needs to be checked by a doctor. 

6- Nipple Itches and Inversions

Normal: Itchy nipples may either be a period forewarning, a result of allergies to certain clothing components such as viscose, or due to leftover shampoo or soap residue.

Not Normal: If coupled with a flattened, flaky, and/or crusty nipple and areola, or yellow or bloody discharge, nipple itches may indicate Nipple Carcinoma, or Paget Disease; a rare form of breast cancer. Similarly, while some women have naturally inverted nipples, a sudden inversion that does not revert back may be cause for concern.

One other thing you should look out for is dimpling on the breasts. These will be like an ‘orange peel’ in appearance and might be an indication of breast cancer. This is one of the important breast signs of physical health that can mean cancerous growths. 

Remember that symmetry is key; if you experience similar symptoms in both breasts then the cause is likely benign. However, immediately consult with a specialist doctor if you observe anything out of these breast signs about physical health. You can also book an appointment with a top Gynecologist in Peshawar, Karachi and Islamabad through oladoc.com, or call our helpline at 042-3890-0939 for assistance to find the RIGHT Doctor for your breast-related concerns.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Dr. Humaira Zulfiqar - Author Dr. Humaira Zulfiqar Saifee is a Gynecologist and Obstetrician. She has an M.B.B.S. and F.C.P.S. (Gynecologist & Obstetrician) degree along with an experience of 18 years. She is also a member of the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC). Dr. Humaira Zulfiqar Saifee practices as a Gynecologist at Precious Days Hospital and Online Video Consultation and charges 1500 and 1500 respectively.