What if my breasts change?
Check your breasts often from the age of 20 and get to know your normal. You have a better chance of noticing any unusual changes if you're familiar with how your breasts normally 'look and feel'. If you detect any abnormal changes for you, show your doctor.
It’s normal for your breasts to be a different size or shape from each other and to change throughout your life, often because of hormones. Hormones can also make your breasts feel different at certain times of the month – e.g. they may feel lumpy just before a period. As you get older, your breasts may become smaller and feel softer.
In most cases, there's no physical signs of breast cancer but possible signs include:
- A new lump or thickening in the breast or armpit area.
- A change in breast shape or size
- A pain in the breast that is unusual
- A change in the skin of the breast, areola or nipple, e.g. colour, dimpling, puckering or reddening
- Any change in the nipple, e.g. a turned in nipple or a discharge. See real signs of breast cancer here.
A lump is the most commonly known sign of breast cancer, but most breast lumps are non-cancerous. Lumps can feel hard and irregular, or they can feel smooth. A suspicious lump is usually hard and irregular in shape – a bit like a raisin. It may be attached to the surrounding tissue or skin, so it doesn’t move around easily. A non-cancerous lump feels more like a grape (smooth edges and more rounded); however, if you find any unusual lumps get them checked by your family doctor without delay.
Your doctor should examine your breasts, ask questions about your concerns and find out about any relevant medical and family history. This will help your doctor understand what is normal for you, or what needs checking again at a later date. If your doctor is concerned, they may suggest further testing.
The New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation (NZBCF) recommends all women:
- 1. Know your breasts from 20 and show abnormal changes to your doctor
- 2. Start regular screening mammograms from 40
- 3. Talk to your family doctor about risk factors like a close family history of breast cancer