Weird Breast Issues That Aren’t Really Weird At All

breast changesFrom nipple leakage to uneven sizes, our breasts often confuse or scare us. Most of the time, what appears to be a breast problem isn’t a problem at all, but a completely normal occurrence. Breast information isn’t at the forefront of the news unless it’s connected to cancer, so we don’t receive much information about breast issues that aren’t serious.

The following breast issues are typically normal, even though they may seem odd. Let us stress that if you have questions about any breast issue, or feel that something isn’t right, do not hesitate to call your doctor. Always listen to your gut and intuition.

Uneven breast sizes

If you look closely at other parts of your body that come in pairs, such as your eyes, hands, and feet, you’ll see that each one of the pair is different from the other, and this includes your breasts. Some women may find that one breast is a size or two different from the other, and this is normal.

Lumpy breasts

Have you ever driven yourself crazy because you think you’ve found several lumps during a self-exam? This one can be scary, but for some women, lumps are a normal part of their breast tissue. Called fibrocystic breasts, this noncancerous condition is very common, especially among premenopausal women. Dense breast tissue tends to feel lumpy, which is one more reason to know what is normal for your breasts and do thorough monthly self-exams.

Nipple leakage when you’re not pregnant

Nipple leakage is common, and fluid can be almost any color or consistency. Some women experience spontaneous leakage, while for others, the leakage occurs only if the nipple is stimulated. Rarely, leakage signals something more serious, so check with your doctor if you’re concerned or it regularly occurs spontaneously.

Extra nipples

Some men and women are born with extra nipples, much as female animals have. According to Texas ob-gyn Michael Yang, MD, when a fetus forms, it has a milk line with several nipples that runs from the armpits down to the groin. Extra nipples typically disappear before birth, but some don’t, and their appearance ranges from molelike to actual miniature breasts.

Menstrual cycle-related breast changes

Thank your hormones for those breast changes during the month. Estrogen and progesterone increase and decrease during your cycle, which can cause breast tenderness and nipple soreness. If your breasts are unbearably sore, ask your doctor for advice on nutritional support.

Weight gain or loss from breasts

Speaking of breast changes, women often lament the fact that when they lose weight, it comes from their breasts first. Because breasts are mostly fat, it’s normal for them to change size when you lose weight.

Again, call your doctor with any breast-related concerns or questions.

Important Self-Exams Every Woman Should Perform

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Self-exams help you to detect changes in your body between visits to your doctor. Many lives have been saved due to diligent self-examination, and following are two self-exams you’ll want to perform regularly.

BSE or breast self-exam

Each woman has her own method of examining her breasts. Some do a systematic BSE monthly or bimonthly, while others keep an eye on their breasts by regularly feeling them in the shower or while lying in bed. Often, women ask their significant others to help them check, or they visit the doctor several times a year for a clinical exam.

While a regular BSE with a consistent technique is best, perfect technique is not as important as frequency and diligence. Sometimes, women stress needlessly about doing it correctly. As long as you feel the entire breast and overlap your motions, you’re doing it right. The goal of a BSE is to know what is normal for you and check for changes.

If you’re not sure whether you’re feeling the entire breast, suggests the following BSE routine:

  • Lie down and bend your arm behind your head to spread the breast tissue evenly over your chest, making it easier to examine.
  • Imagine your breast is divided in vertical lines from your underarm to breastbone, and use the finger pads of your other hand to feel for lumps in an up-and-down pattern along those lines. Move in dime-sized circles, slightly overlapping the previous line as you move up and down.
  • Use different levels of pressure at each spot so you feel all the breast tissue, especially if you have large breasts. You can feel the tissue close to the skin with light pressure, tissue in the upper half of the breast with medium pressure, and lower breast tissue with deeper pressure. There will be a ridge at the bottom of each breast, which is normal. If you have questions about pressure, talk with your doctor or nurse.
  • Examine the entire breast area, and then repeat the exam on your other breast.
  • Stand in front of a mirror, press your hands on your hips, and look at your breasts for changes in shape or size. Also look for rashes, redness, or dimpling.
  • Raise each arm slightly, and feel the underarm for lumps.

Some women may find it easier to examine their breasts in the shower, which is fine, as long as you are thorough—or add this routine to your shower exam. Current medical literature suggests that the above procedure is the most effective for finding lumps as soon as possible.

Skin exam

A regular skin exam will help you keep an eye on moles, freckles, and other spots that could become cancerous. It should be done at least once a month, and if you ask your doctor to do a full-body exam first, you’ll have a baseline. While it may sound daunting, after you’ve done a full skin exam a couple of times, it shouldn’t take more than 10–15 minutes.

Warning signs of skin cancer include a change in an existing mole or spot, or any growth or spot that . . .

  • Appears during adulthood.
  • Increases in size or thickness.
  • Changes in texture or in color—especially if it turns pearly, multicolored, brown, or black.
  • Has an irregular shape or outline.
  • Is bigger than a pencil eraser.
  • Continues to hurt, itch, scab, or bleed longer than three weeks.

If you see any of these signs, don’t wait or hope it goes away. See a doctor, preferably a dermatologist.

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