By Ella Woodward
No matter what your age is, it’s vital to understand what is and isn’t normal in order to keep your breasts healthy, as it will help you to spot changes early that could be warning signs for something more serious. In the same way, you care for your skin; you should pay attention to how your breasts look and feel so that you can recognize when something is suddenly different. As you age, your doctor may recommend regular breast examinations, but they can also teach you how to perform your own checks at home, which could be the difference in spotting signs of health problems before they become severe. In this practical guide, we’ll explain what you should know about breast care and possible health problems that you could experience in your lifetime.
Understanding What’s Normal
Many people worry that their breasts don’t look right, and typically the things you are noticing that are causing concern are actually normal changes in your breasts. Normal changes in your breasts can occur over time as you age, and if you notice your breasts are slightly different sizes, one hangs lower than the other, you have hairs growing around your nipples, or your breasts feel tender before and during your period, these are nothing to be worried about.
However, there are changes that you should speak to your doctor about when you first notice them, such as a firm lump you’ve never felt before, swelling around your breasts, collarbone, or armpit, blood or fluid leaking from your nipples, dry, cracked, red, or thickened skin around your nipple, and warmth or itching in your breasts. When you experience these symptoms, it doesn’t necessarily mean there is something wrong, but it is vital to have them checked by a medical professional. These symptoms could be harmless changes in your breasts, but they could also be an indication of health problems such as irritation, infection, and, in some cases, cancer. Furthermore, while many people have naturally inverted nipples, you should speak to your doctor if your nipple suddenly begins pulling back into the breast, as this can be another indication of health problems.
Knowing Your Risks Of Cancer
Health problems in breasts can affect anyone, and it is crucial that you speak to your doctor about any factors that could put you at a higher risk of cancer; for example, your chances of developing the disease increase if you smoke, drink alcohol, or have a family history of breast cancer.
Additionally, women who don’t have children, who have their first period before age 12, go through menopause later than normal, take certain hormone drugs during menopause for longer than five years, or have children after the age of 30 are also at a higher risk of cancer. Moreover, birth control pills are a well-known factor for increasing the risk of breast cancer, and women who take this drug long-term should perform at-home checks regularly to catch changes early.
Changes When Pregnant Or Breastfeeding
When you get pregnant, your body goes through many changes, and you will most likely expect typical changes like your breasts growing larger or becoming tender, but many women also experience darkening nipples, lumpier breast tissue, and more visible blood vessels.
Cysts and other non-cancerous tumors can also form or grow in size during pregnancies; however, while you should always have lumps in your breasts checked, the majority of lumps discovered during pregnancy are not cancerous.
Following birth, your breasts will also begin to swell and fill with milk which can make them feel hard and tender, but breastfeeding can ease this discomfort. However, if you choose to bottle feed instead, you should expect your breasts to stop producing milk after a few days. If you do opt for breastfeeding, your doctor will prepare you for what to expect, but you can typically expect to experience sore, cracked nipples or plugged milk ducts that can lead to a painful infection called mastitis, although this can be easily treated with antibiotics.
Breast Health In Your 40s
Ages you age, you’ll notice many changes in your body, especially in your breasts. For women experiencing menopause or perimenopause, the glands that produce milk begin to shrink and are replaced with new fat tissue. As a result, your bra-cup size may go up, and you may experience some sagging.
Physical changes are only part of what you should expect as you reach or surpass 40; the risk of cancer also rises, and you should begin screening tests called mammograms. Mammograms are recommended every one to two years, with some health organizations suggesting you begin at 50 and others advising you start from 40 years old.
Regardless of your age, you can always lower your risk of health problems in your breasts by limiting your intake of alcohol, quitting smoking, and keeping your body at a healthy weight. You should also try to eat a healthy and balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables while also getting at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week.
An abscess is an accumulation of pus inside the body caused by infections and is a common condition during lactation. Breast abscesses typically occur due to a build-up of pus from an infection of your breast, but a mastitis inflammation of the breast tissue can also lead to infections. While most common in people who are lactating, breast abscesses can occur in anyone and is usually a result of untreated infections from cuts on the skin, cracked nipples, nipple piercings, or bacteria entering the milk ducts.
Common symptoms of a breast abscess include pain, redness, swelling, warm skin, nipple drainage, or discharge from other areas of the breast, and if you have an active infection, you may also experience fever, chills, and fatigue. When experiencing these symptoms, it is vital to seek medical attention immediately to begin treatment quickly. Diagnosing a breast abscess can involve physical examinations and even imaging diagnostics such as ultrasounds, but to learn more, head over to Ezra for expert advice and more information on breast abscesses. These guides can help you to ensure that you are informed.
Common Breast Pain Problems
Breast pain is a common problem and is typically caused by hormonal changes during your menstrual cycle, but taking the contraceptive pill or hormone replacement therapy can also cause breast pain.
However, many women experience pain in the breasts daily, and this is ordinarily associated with shoulder, neck, and armpit pain which is often worse at the end of the day or following exercise. In some cases, the pain is severe, and treatment is needed to help alleviate the symptoms. In other cases, there are changes you can make to help with the pain.
- Try wearing a supportive bra, like a comfy lounge bra that you even wear in bed.
- If supportive bras aren’t helping, you may benefit from going braless or wearing a loose-fitting bra.
- Cut out coffee, tea, and sugary drinks to reduce caffeine.
- Cut down on the amount of salt and fat in your diet.
- Try vitamins B6 and B1, but check with your doctor first for how much you should take to experience results.
- Evening primrose oil is a popular favorite to help many symptoms of menstruation, but it can also help with chronic breast pain so long as you do not suffer from epilepsy.
- Heat is an excellent remedy for pain, and you should consider using hot water bottles, having a hot bath or shower to reduce your pain.
- In some cases, heat has no effect, and those women typically find the ice packs or cold showers are more helpful.
- Relaxation techniques or gentle massages are also a popular favorite for breast pain and period pains.
- Talk to your doctor about using anti-inflammatory medication.