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’s normal and what’s not when it comes to your breasts:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 the ordinary. 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.
About the Writer:
Yashfa Marrium is a freelance writer and health enthusiast. You can reach her at [email protected]