What changes occur to the breast over the course of life?

Breast changes throughout a woman's lifespan are usually normal and often reflect changing hormone levels. For example, hormonal changes that occur premenstrually may cause your breasts to feel tender and lumpy a few days before your period. During pregnancy, hormonal changes stimulate the milk glands in your breasts to increase in number and grow larger, making your breasts get bigger, too. While breastfeeding, breasts can become engorged with milk, and then less tender and swollen after a feeding. Hormonal changes at menopause can cause your breasts to feel lumpier and more tender, and if you take hormone replacement therapy, your breasts may become more dense.

Monthly breast self-examinations can help you to get to know what's normal for your breasts and to identify breast changes that could potentially signal a problem. Call your doctor if you notice any of these breast changes:
  • a lump in or near your breast or under your arm
  • thick or firm tissue in or near your breast or under your arm
  • a change in the size or shape of your breast
  • changes in the nipple, such as a nipple that suddenly points inward
  • nipple discharge, especially bloody nipple discharge
  • skin on your breast that is itchy, red, dimpled or puckered
Riverside Health System
The look and feel of a woman's breasts change over the course of her life. Some women notice lumpiness or tenderness during or just before their menstrual periods. During pregnancy, a woman's breast might become fuller and firmer as her body prepares to breastfeed. As a woman ages, her breasts might lose firmness as the milk-producing tissue turns into soft, fatty tissue. You should know the way your breasts normally look and feel so you can tell your doctor about any changes you notice. Not all lumps or breast changes mean you have cancer or a problem, but any change in breast tissue should be checked by a doctor.
This answer is based on source information from the National Women's Health Information.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.