October Procedure of the Month: Your Breast, Your Body
Posted September 25, 2019
Your Breasts, Your Body
Self-breast exams are important and should be done on a consistent, regular, routine basis. This will allow you to know how your breasts feel and will allow you to recognize any changes should they occur. Normal breast tissue can feel slightly lumpy and can vary in consistency or thickness with each woman. Depending upon a woman’s menstrual cycle, or at different times in their life, the texture and density of the breast may even feel different. It is important to become familiar with the normal anatomy and feel of your breast. During your yearly exam, it can increase your confidence to speak with your physician so they can instruct you on the correct way to perform a self-breast exam. Understanding your breasts will help to distinguish if something should appear suspicious rather than healthy breast tissue.
It is normal to have a slight difference in the size and shape of the breasts as well as in the nipples. Heredity, weight, and ligaments play a role in the size and shape associated with the breast. Breasts may feel firm and retain their shape if the ligaments are strong or they may feel heavy, soft and weighted if the breast is high in fatty tissue. The nipple size and shape may vary but should be generally the same unless the breast size is much different. The areola can range in color and size as well but should be symmetrical. Breast size can increase or decrease based on our weight and lifestyle. Their shape and texture can also be affected so understanding your “normal” breast is important.
Your breasts can change throughout your life beginning with puberty or the onset of menstruation. Female hormones will continue to produce normal changes in breast tissue throughout a woman’s life. Changes that can occur and may be noted include swelling, tenderness, and lumpy or bumpy depending on hormones. Pregnancy can also affect the breast as they become tender and swollen. Menopause can decrease the size and change the feel of the breast as ligaments weaken and hormones decrease.
Any normal changes that occur typically affect both breasts at the same time so, if a change is noted to one breast and not the other, it should be examined by your doctor. Changes to both breasts that appear upon self-exam should be noted and addressed with your physician for possible follow up. Mammograms should be done on a regular basis and followed up with your gynecologist as needed.