Normal Changes During a Lifetime
A self examination of your breasts once every month is the ideal way to be aware of the periodic changes in your breasts as you go through the different stages of your life. You will become more familiar with your breasts than your doctor, and you will be able to detect changes easily. A clinical examination once a year keeps track of the health of your breasts, so set up regular appointments with your doctor for that check-up. As you go through life from puberty to menopause, there will be many changes taking place in your breasts. The majority of these changes are normal and healthy, and are the result of varying levels of hormones, diet, breast feeding and exercise.
Puberty – The Teen Years
As you go into puberty in your early teens, monthly menstrual cycles start and your body begins the process of maturing into adulthood. You begin to develop the curves that make the female body sexy and attractive. Skin changes can occur at this time, including the appearance of acne. There may be changes the color and texture of your hair. Your breasts will start to develop and grow during this period and the breast tissues may initially be dense and firm, especially if your breasts are small.
Family History: At this stage of your life, it is time to get familiar with your family’s health history in regard to breasts. Ask your female relatives (mother, aunts, grandmother) about any problems they might have experienced with their breasts, such as fibrocystic occurrences or regular cysts. If you have a family history of these type of issues, it is more than likely that you, too, will experience these. However, there is no cause for concern or worry as cysts are benign. However, you should be aware of where they are and whether they come and go, in order that you can tell the difference between these cysts and other features in your breasts.’
The Childbearing Years
Once you reach adulthood, you may conceive and have babies whom you might (and should!) breast feed. This will cause further changes in your breasts, together with changes in the rest of your body. Your breasts are likely to get bigger and more tender during pregnancy, and they will need more support from well-fitting bras. Remember to continue the self-examination of your breasts during this period so that you remain familiar with the changes taking place. You should note that pregnancy and breastfeeding combined help to lower the risk of developing cancer of the breasts.
Menopause – The Mature Years
More changes will take place in your breasts as you go into menopause. The decline in the levels of estrogen and progesterone results in the breasts losing firmness and some of the volume and shape of the teen and child-bearing years. Your breast self examinations should continue through these years as well, to keep you familiar with the normal changes that are taking place. Breast tissues that are less dense and softer than before will seem to have more lumps and bumps. However, do not become needlessly worried, as 90% of breast lumps are benign.