How they vary, big, small, pert, not so pert – young and old they differ incredibly and they are rarely balanced, typically one will be smaller or higher than the other. And you know what, they are all normal!!!
The size quite simply depends upon the amount of breast tissue and fat in the area.
- Volume of breast tissue
- Family history
- Weight loss or gain
- History of pregnancies and lactation
- Thickness and elasticity of the breast skin
- Degree of hormonal influences on the breast (particularly oestrogen and progesterone)
- Changes in size or shape.
- Changes in skin texture such as puckering or dimpling.
- Inverted nipple.
- A lump or thickening of breast tissue.
- Redness or a rash on the skin/around the nipple.
- Discharge from one or both nipples.
- Constant pain in breast or armpit.
- Swelling in armpit/around collarbone.
Just as size varies so do nipples and areola’s – the area around the nipple. Some nipples constantly stand erect, others are only erect when cold or stimulated and some are inverted and unless this is a recent development then there is no cause for concern. Also most women have hair on the nipples, some are long and dark, it is totally normal.
What Happens over time?
The shape of the breast changes through the years, the skin stretches and expands as the breasts grow, the tissue is quite dense in a young women, with more glandular tissue.
As we age the tissue becomes less dense and more fatty and during each menstrual cycle, breast tissue tends to swell from changes in the oestrogen and progesterone levels. The milk glands and ducts enlarge, and in turn, the breasts retain water. During menstruation, breasts may temporarily feel swollen, painful, tender, or lumpy.
Don’t forget to check them out!!
It’s vital that you examine your breasts for lumps and this is best done about a week after menstruation when the tissue is less lumpy. Don’t stop doing the examinations when you’re pregnant, it should be a life time habit
Some women experience Fibrocystic condition related to the menstrual cycle, these are non cancerous lumps, the should be checked by a doctor. This condition usually subsides after the menopause, if not hormone replacement therapy may be advised.
Here’s how to check them?
There’s no right or wrong way to check your breasts. Try to get used to looking at and feeling your breasts regularly. Remember to check all parts of your breast, your armpits and up to your collarbone.
What changes should I look and feel for?
If you notice any changes don’t hang about get an appointment to see your doctor or nurse.
Well it’s not just your stomach that’s going to change and many women notice changes in their breasts before anything else, with the biggest changes happening in the first 8 weeks. They may become tender and the nipples may be sore, often they will increase in size by one or two cup sizes. Blood vessels increase in size with the surge of hormones to stimulate the ducts. The breasts usually produce milk three to five days after giving birth as hormones and the suckling of the baby stimulates production.
After finishing feeding the hormones lower the breasts will become smaller and will typically be less firm than before.
Menopause and post menopause
Changes in hormones cause loss of glandular tissue and the increase in fatty tissue. The breasts may become larger and sag as the connective tissue loses it’s strength, a good fitting bra is essentail for support. After 50 there is a program to screen all women for cancer.
For information on breast cancer click here
For free, confidentail support and information visit www.breastcancercare.org.uk or call Helpline 0808 800 6000