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2nd June, 20204 min read

Breast changes: What do they mean and when should I worry?

Medical reviewer:Healthily's medical team
Author:Meera Senthilingam
Last reviewed: 03/06/2020
Medically reviewed

All of Healthily's articles undergo medical safety checks to verify that the information is medically safe. View more details in our safety page, or read our editorial policy.

Breast changes are normal as you go through life, so it’s important to look at and feel your breasts regularly.

Every woman’s breasts are different -- the size, shape and consistency of your breasts are unique to you. One breast may also be larger than the other.

Many changes that occur to your breasts are changes in how your breast or nipple looks and feels. By keeping aware of your own breasts and how they vary over time, you will:

  • know what's normal for you
  • know what changes to look for
  • let a doctor know of any changes straight away

Try to get used to checking your breasts regularly, maybe in the bath or shower |or when you use body lotion. You should check all parts of your breast, your armpits and up to your collarbone.

If you are an older woman of 50 or over you should go regularly to breast screening check-ups.

What breast changes are normal?

It’s natural for your breasts to change throughout your lifetime -- they will change during puberty, adolescence, your childbearing years and the menopause.

Your breasts may also feel different at different times of the month -- during your menstrual cycle.

Most of these changes are caused by varying levels of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone, which regulate your menstrual cycle.

During the menopause you may experience sore breast and nipples due to the hormonal changes that happen at this time.

After menopause, it’s also common for your breasts to feel softer, to change shape, and become smaller.

But if you notice any changes in your breasts, or see changes that are new for you, it’s important to see a doctor.

Most changes are harmless but you should always get them checked.

What breast changes are more of a concern?

While you should get any new changes to your breast checked by a healthcare professional as a precaution, some changes may require more urgent attention.

What will the doctor check for?

A doctor will examine your breasts and ask questions about your symptoms and family history. They may suggest you go for further tests in hospital or at a breast care clinic.

Depending on your age and symptoms, you may have the following tests:

  • a mammogram -- this is an X-ray of the breast
  • an ultrasound -- this gives an image of the inside of the breast
  • a biopsy -- when a sample of cells is taken from your breast lump and sent to a laboratory for testing

These tests should confirm what type of breast lump you have.

If the doctor doesn’t refer you for tests, ask them to explain why. They may ask you to return in a week or 2 if things don’t improve, but go back sooner if your symptoms get worse.

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