Breast Education - What's Normal

Normal breasts and nipples come in many shapes and sizes and whatever the size, color and shape of your breasts, they’re normal for you!  They may be large, small, “perky”, sagging, different sizes from each other; the nipples and surrounding areola may be large, small, dark or light. Basically, your breasts are the result of your genetics and your age, and you will notice that there are changes in texture and shape as you go through the years.

Breast development and changes over time

Little girls’ breasts start to grow at the beginning of puberty, when the hormones are starting to flow. They will take several years to get to their final size and shape. The breasts are at their largest during the reproductive years, especially when breast feeding. After menopause, when the hormones have stopped functioning, the breasts are smaller and the connective tissue has sagged some, making the breasts more “droopy”.

The breasts are composed of glandular tissue which produces milk when you are nursing, the ducts that carry the milk from the glands to the nipple, some supporting tissue, and fat.

You have no doubt noticed that in the days before your period, your breasts may enlarge and feel lumpy, full and tender – this is because your body is preparing for pregnancy and the milk glands start to prepare. If you do not get pregnant during this cycle, you will menstruate and your breasts will return to normal, until the next cycle begins.

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Modified Radical Mastectomy
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What about "lumpy", painful breasts?

How can you tell what is normal and what isn’t? The important thing is to get familiar with the feel and texture of your own breasts. Everyone has a lump or two that may come or go. You need to recognize these to know that they are not a sign of something that needs investigation.

If your breasts are nearly always lumpy and uncomfortable, especially before your period, you probably have fibrocystic changes in your breasts. You may hear the phrase “fibrocystic disease”, but it’s pretty hard to call something that over 60% of the female population of the work experiences a disease!

Fibrocystic changes are generally present in both breasts, and are more obvious before your period, gradually going away during menopause. The name itself is a combination that describes two related conditions: “fibro” refers to the connective tissue in the breast, which can form rubbery lumps or masses, and “cystic” refers to round, fluid-filled sacs within the tissue. Lumps which ebb and flow during your cycle are generally the hallmark of fibrocystic changes.

When should I be concerned?
A hallmark of benign (non-cancerous) lumps in the breast is that they are fairly smooth in texture and freely moveable in the breast. While you won’t be able to move the lump from one side of the breast to another, you will be able to feel it slide in the surrounding tissue. If a lump doesn’t move easily and seems to be stuck to the body wall under the breast, the skin or the tissue surrounding it, it should be checked by your doctor.

If you have a lump which doesn’t get larger and smaller wit your cycle, or gradually enlarges over several menstrual cycles, you should have it checked. Most breast lumps are not cancer, but early detection is always the best bet in case of questions.

If the skin of your breast starts to redden or changes texture, especially if the breast underneath feels thick or denser than the rest of the breast, you need to see your doctor. Most of the time these changes are a sign of mastitis, or an infection in a breast duct (especially in nursing women), but can occasionally be a sign of a form of breast cancer which can grow more quickly than other kinds and should be checked out immediately.

When should I be concerned?

A hallmark of benign (non-cancerous) lumps in the breast is that they are fairly smooth in texture and freely moveable in the breast. While you won’t be able to move the lump from one side of the breast to another, you will be able to feel it slide in the surrounding tissue. If a lump doesn’t move easily and seems to be stuck to the body wall under the breast, the skin or the tissue surrounding it, it should be checked by your doctor.

If you have a lump which doesn’t get larger and smaller wit your cycle, or gradually enlarges over several menstrual cycles, you should have it checked. Most breast lumps are not cancer, but early detection is always the best bet in case of questions.

If the skin of your breast starts to redden or changes texture, especially if the breast underneath feels thick or denser than the rest of the breast, you need to see your doctor. Most of the time these changes are a sign of mastitis, or an infection in a breast duct (especially in nursing women), but can occasionally be a sign of a form of breast cancer which can grow more quickly than other kinds and should be checked out immediately.

Address

Richmond Surgical
7607 Forest Ave., Suite 220
Richmond, Virginia 23229

Phone

Phone : 804.285.9416
Fax : 804.285.9461